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Jaime Lozano- The Lincoln Centre Residency Interview

Heralded by no less than Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda as “the next big thing,” the Mexican composer-director Jaime Lozano has quickly become recognized as a major force in contemporary musical theatre.  

Now Jaime is returning to The Lincoln Centre for a new residency of concerts, ahead of those concerts I sat down with him to discuss the project, the second volume of his album Songs For An Immigrant and more.

How does it feel to return to the Lincoln Centre with a new residency of concerts?
Lincoln Center is mi home, mi hoar, mi casa. It is my son’s playground. He loves going to Lincoln Center plaza and playing and running around. I love every single venue, space and corner at Lincoln Center. The building but even more important, the people, have been part of my story as an immigrant in this city. Of my familia’s journey. I remember the first time I came with Florencia to New York, we went to visit Lincoln Center, and we took a photo in the stairs going to the plaza and I told her, "one day we are gonna perform here". That was back in 2014. We got married in Mexico and then we came for our honeymoon in December 2015. We were supposed to stay only for one month but days before our flight back I told Florencia: “…and if we stay?” And we stayed. I am telling you all this story because later in the summer of 2021 Florencia and I were performing in front of the Metropolitan Opera House, and the rest is history… I was honored to be invited last year 2022 to be part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series, a dream that came true. I had watched those PBS videos for the American Songbook series. I saw one of my favorite musical theatre composers: Jason Robert Brown, as part of this series. Spring Awakening and Hamilton had concerts as part of this. Can you imagine how I felt when they invited me? But once again, everything is about the people, the community. I am forever grateful to Shanta, Jordana, Jon, Paloma, Roshni, Halla, Godfrey, Cristina, and many, many more for opening Lincoln Center doors and their hearts to my stories. So being back and performing this residency of concert at the David Rubenstein Atrium feels like having a party with my friends and family at my living. It’s home.

How important is it that you celebrate your own heritage in your work?
My heritage is who I am. My people. I was born and raised in México. Listening to my Mexican music. Back when I was a kid, or even when I was a young 20 something years old, I never imagined my future was meant to be outside of my country. I never dreamed about living in New York. It just happened. When I arrived the first time in 2007 was because I got this full tuition scholarship to come to NYU, but the most incredible thing is that I didn’t speak any English at the time. I came and my life changed, but it has also been really challenging. Being an immigrant artist is so hard. Struggling with money of course, but struggling with the language, feeling all the time you don’t belong or that you are not good enough. But instead of trying to be like the others I have to be myself, embrace who I am. And that is why I tell my stories, the stories of people like myself, that’s why I use the music I have listened to my whole life. Because that is who I am and that is my superpower. And I embrace it and I celebrate it every single day of my life. Not only in my work but in everything I do as a human being. I owe it to my people, to my parents and my family, to my friends back in Mexico, to all my Paisanos and all immigrants looking for a better life in this country. I celebrate me and celebrate us.
Creatively, how do you approach your work and do you ever have an audience in mind when you’re composing?
I strongly believe that the most important thing being an artist and telling stories is being honest. Those stories, those songs, the music, lyrics, need to come from the heart, from a place of honesty. I need to relate in some way with what I am gonna write. I need to connect with it first if I want someone else to connect and relate to it. Any craft comes after that.
In September, Songs For An Immigrant Volume 2 releases, can you tell me a little bit about the process of creating this second volume?
I have been working on these albums for a long, long time. I started writing these immigrant stories/songs back in 2016 and doing concerts all around NYC. We started recording the songs because the audience coming to the concerts asked for it. And thanks to these projects I found my community, what is now my Familia, my Latine Broadway, Off-Broadway and beyond performers. The beauty of this is that we all have our very own and unique journey as Latine artists and human beings and I have learnt a lot from every single writer, musician and performer involved in these albums. The first volume was recorded during the pandemic, so everything was virtual and It was one of the things that helped us to survive, finding that community even in a virtual way and having their support to tell these stories. I have so many songs and experiences and obviously one album wasn’t enough, so after releasing the first one in October 2021, I started working right away on the second volume collaborating with 8 different lyricists, over 17 singers, 40 musicians from all over the world. Many things have also been recorded remotely. And once again, these people, really, the heart every single performer, musician, engineer, designer have put in this album, in every song. I can thank them enough.

As well as the shows at The Lincoln Centre, you’ll also be playing a show in Little Island NYC on August 16th, what can an audience expect from that evening?
The show at Little Island is another project that I have with my wife Florencia Cuenca, this project is called “Broadway en Spanglish.” We decided to create this concept to put together some of the things we love the most: Broadway and Mexican music. It was Florencia’s idea. It was born from not feeling welcome, you know, all the performers that you see on stage, especially playing leading female parts, look and sound the same. It is hard to break that mold and pattern. So Florencia came to me with this idea about doing the song Burn, from Hamilton but in a mariachi style, and my brain exploded. Of course, I immediately heard in my mind the way it sounds. So we start working on mariachi arrangements of this iconic Broadway musical theatre songs. You can listen to songs from Waitress, Company, Next to Normal, Hamilton, Frozen, and more. And we have the amazing mariachi Real de México de Ramón Ponce playing with us and it is just a joy. A big celebration of who we are, what we love and our music. We are also working on the album that we expect to release later this year. So I am working on two albums at the same time.
What shows/performances have inspired you?
Everything inspires me. I believe inspiration is everywhere. And to be honest, when someone feels honest and made from the heart I am really easily amazed. Also, I cry a lot. Performances and artists make me cry. Also, I am inspired by acts of kindness. My family inspires me every single day. My wife who is a warrior, my son who is such a mature 6-year-old human being and sees the world in such a unique way. Recently I would say I have been inspired to see theatre that challenges its audiences. I was really inspired by Parade at the New York City Center, but at the same time I cried a lot and was inspired by Six and the all-female cast and band. I love The Comedy of Errors at the Public, a beautiful Latine adaptation, I saw a concert by Azul, a bilingual musical at 54 Below and it was also very inspiring. I couldn’t stop naming things.
What would you want anyone to take away from seeing one of your concerts?
To be honest I don’t have any expectations about that. Every person is unique and I have been very surprised by people coming to my concert that approach me at the end or send me messages via social media and the way they are affected by something that I did. I just do what I do in an honest and passionate way. I believe art can change and save lives. I was saved and changed for the good. I don’t know what I would be doing without storytelling and art. I just hope that something that I do can affect someone else in the way I have been affected by so many artists.

Jaime Lozano plays at The Lincoln Centre next on August 4th - visit for booking details. Jaime plays alongside wife Florencia Cuenca at Little Island on August 16th visit for booking details.

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