Interview with Oscar Muro

September 16th, 2019 / Sarah Mason /

Inspiring kids through music starts with an inspiring teacher. Infinite Music sits down in a conversation with music teacher and musician Oscar Muro.

Oscar teaches drum and ukulele classes for Infinite Music’s Makin’ Music program with Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.

Has music always been an important part of your life?

My first memory is of my mother singing. She is of Mexican heritage and she sang wonderful Mexican folk songs to me. When I started hearing what she was singing and comparing it to what I was hearing on  the stereo, I found the stereo was humming the same tune. I made the connection—this “thing” called music. I started guitar lessons in 7th grade. My older sister took piano and my three older brothers played music. We always had a piano in the house and participated in music at the church. As the youngest child in my family, I got to try piano as well. Strangely enough, there wasn’t the “family band,” but we would go to family gatherings and church, and everyone would play music together.  

What was it that led you down the path to pursue music and make it such an important part of your life?

Music is community to me. At an early age, that was my connection—the joy that comes from it, and sharing it with others. Bringing it to what I’m doing today, it’s a cultural thing. We sing and we partake in music as a community. When we share it with youth, we’re instilling culture and making them better people. It’s part of humanity and my own armchair philosophy is that community is the origin of music—we’re trying to make our community better. That’s why I feel so passionate about sharing it with younger people. I felt guitar was my thing and it gave me a personal relationship. I felt grounded with it. It gave me confidence. I felt self-conscious at that time in my life. I felt drawn to music. It’s like some sort of primordial connection to community. This thing I can do, this music, is special. I was a very shy boy. It [music] never scorned me. My instrument was always there for me. It was a companion, like an extra appendage. It’s inseparable. For people that are musicians, that’s how we describe it.

In my first year of college, I pursued graphic design. I considered music my hobby. I felt parallels in art and composition but when I realized I spent more time doing music, I flipped my major to music, and realized that this is what I’m supposed to do. I had been teaching guitar since I took lessons. I would teach my friends what I learned. My personal story is that I was diagnosed with MS in 2000, a physically debilitating disease. Music sustained me through this and has kept me from going crazy. After going through the psychological hurdles, I didn’t realize music has always been there for me. It puts food on my table. This whole music thing sustains me.
I realized I’ve always been someone that’s shared. Music is so multi-dimensional.

It has been there for me since day one. It has helped me through my entire life, and kept me out of trouble. You find what you need at a given time. For me, that’s always been music. I play piano, guitar, record and compose music. I went to school to study composition. I first went to LA to a private music school. Then, I came back to Santa Maria and continued on, and received my Bachelors in Music Composition at UC, Santa Barbara. I find that it’s so multi-faceted. It’s not just about my guitar. It [music] just permeates every part of my existence.

Oscar Muro teaching at Peoples’ Self-Help Housing in San Luis Obispo

What do you think are the most tangible benefits of introducing music to elementary age students?

It’s confidence building because they can express themselves. Some kids do not speak the language. As a foreigner, music is the common denominator. I just see the kids become little people. It’s empowering. I get to relive my experience, my childhood, with music through them.

Teaching young people music is obviously very important to you, but what about your own musical pursuits?

I still play classical music and study composition. That’s opened a whole universe to me. Guitar was the catalyst. Sharing music is the big thing.

Since you are an accomplished guitarist and composer, do you sing?

I can hold a tune, but I have too much respect for good singers. I personally don’t like the tone of my rickety voice. I’ve taken too many classes in music to know I’m no singer. [laughing]

What do you think is the best way to introduce kids to making music of their own?

There are absolutely no walls with music. I think learning rhythm is always the first step to music before we execute a note. Getting them to feel the music. Beating on drums is the best, first step to making music. Rhythm is the original component. Without it, there is no music. It’s the germ, the distance between two sounds. How the leaves sway, like our heartbeats. We’re born with our mother’s heartbeat; that’s what we hear in the womb. This whole rhythm thing, it’s part of the stardust. It’s very innate. As the teacher plays a single rhythm, the student can start copying that beat right away. Everyone is born with rhythm, whether you know it or not. The very fact you’re a human being, we each hold our mother’s rhythm of life. I think each of us has a capability, a gift that the other cannot do.

Do you have any advice or wisdom you would give a young person looking for a career in music, either as a teacher, composer, or professional musician?

If someone wants to be a teacher, as soon as you learn something, share it with your friends. How beautiful it is to see and experience what I see, and music is that core thing. When you’re teaching, you’re bringing someone into the fold. When you keep on sharing, it will be obvious you want to do this, this thing called music. Teaching music is like sharing this great unknown secret of the universe! It’s great exercise for the young spirit, mind and body, helping it to learn, feel, heal and to be better human beings… and it’s just so cool!