Music to his ears: A local musician’s passion turned career
While studying music education at UMass Dartmouth, Christian Camarao would wait outside music practice rooms and ask people to play for his album because he “wanted to make [the music] so badly.”
“I didn’t care if the recording quality was messy, like if someone was coughing in the room next to me … and you could hear it a little bit,” he said. “I just wanted to hear the music in a physical space.”
Now, the 24-year-old Dartmouth native teaches chorus and band at Hathaway Elementary and Winslow Elementary Schools in New Bedford. After work, he creates his own music.
The mostly instrumental tracks sound folk-inspired and contain intricate rhythms and instrumentation. Camarao layers diverse sounds, like the low tones of the bassoon and the bright airy notes of a flute.
“[My music] provides an uncomplicated feeling like, ‘these are nice songs, these are nice sounding things,’” Camarao said. “Maybe I’m riding my bike or maybe I’m swimming, and it compliments that.”
He pours time and creativity into perfecting the songs, a labor of love for the musician. His expansive knowledge of musical arrangement sets him and his music apart from other singer-songwriters.
“When I am making stuff now, I have to be able to furiously enjoy every single second of it,” Camarao said. “I almost imagine myself playing it for my worst enemy and the goal is that they are like, ‘yeah, I can’t even dispute that this is good.’”
He gets as much out of his music as possible, and out of every opportunity it presents him.
In college, when he couldn't afford the music composition classes he wanted, the professor invited him to office hours each week to learn the material without course credit.
Through this determination, he learned how to create music one instrument at a time and grow his musical career.
“UMass taught me to be really hungry for opportunities,” he said, adding that it is important to study something “you want to learn.”
To create his songs, Camarao finds his inspiration in history, the subject he initially went to school for, until he found that music education was right for him.
His 2020 album “Appalachian Fiction” is inspired by West Virginia history and folklore. He is fascinated by the idea that a place hundreds of miles away, hundreds of years ago, had similar racial and religious controversies as people face today.
He finds that each generation has a “moment of unease” socially, whether that is a pandemic or racially motivated riots. He channels that tension into his albums..
“He is legitimately one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met,” said Emery Caparas, who Camarao has worked with arranging music. “There is no doubt in his ability and his craft, but his urgency in doing it is unmatched.”
Camarao painstakingly layers and edits the songs until satisfaction, spending hours on each one. He says he lets the music mold itself while he edits, finding new rhythms and sounds with each session.
“I like to hear how things develop slowly over time,” he said. “I take the same line [and] I add different things to it and recontextualize it.”
There are times when Camarao gets so caught up in the workflow that he loses track of time. When he finally realizes it has been hours he thinks, “Oh it’s midnight, I guess it's time to go home so I can teach the next generation.”
A highlight of being a music teacher, Camarao says, is seeing the students grow through the school year. As they learn to read music and play their instruments, it is a visible reflection of his effort.
His upcoming album, “Appalachian Horror,” a sequel to “Appalachian Fiction,” is set to release on August 12. In the album, he tackles the idea that “working [on] something you can’t see the impact of sucks.”
Unlike his students, Camarao only got into music in high school when he took a music theory class his senior year.
“I had one class at the end of high school that kind of dictated what I do now, and for the rest of my life, hopefully.”
To hear his music visit christiancamarao.bandcamp.com/music.