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Daily Inspiration: Meet Imer Santiago

Today we’d like to introduce you to Imer Santiago. 

Hi Imer, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m originally from Lorain, OH, born to Puerto Rican parents (of Rio Grande, PR). After graduating from Admiral King High School, where I played in the Band Program under the direction of the late, legendary Mr. Bill Spruill, I attended and graduated from The Ohio State University with degrees in Jazz Studies (performance) and Atmospheric Sciences. At Ohio State, trumpet master Pharez Whitted was my Jazz Trumpet Professor for five years! His influence on my playing and conceptual approach to trumpet playing to this day is certainly undeniable. 

After OSU, I then moved down south and studied at The University of New Orleans, where I received a Masters of Music in Jazz Studies (performance) and was able to learn from local and nationally recognized Jazz greats, such as Ellis Marsalis, Clyde Kerr, Jr., Wendell Brunious, Ed Petersen, Steve Masokowski, and Harold Battiste, Jr. 

Since my college days, I have taught Band, Jazz, Chorus, Math, Science, Spanish, and Video Productions in public schools in Central FL (St. Cloud & Kissimmee), Tallahassee, FL, and Nashville, TN, while still finding time to compose, record, tour, and perform. It’s tricky but well worth it! 

I’ve performed in venues throughout the United States, Europe, Brazil, & South Africa, in various musical styles, including Big Band, Jazz Combos, Latin Jazz Ensembles, Pop, Funk, Salsa, Gospel, and more. Some of the artists I’ve performed with include: Spiritual Impact, Salvador, Jaci Velasquez, Kirk Franklin, TobyMac, and Danny Gokey. 

Additionally, I’ve released originally written material available on most digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and more! 

My musical start had two origins…learning how to play trumpet in Beginning Band at Meister Road Elementary School in Lorain, OH, where Mrs. Diane Tucker was my Band Director, and learning how to play “by ear” for worship services at Templo Emmanuel (also in Lorain, OH). These were formative years where my musical foundation was being established. 

I currently reside in St. Cloud, FL (just outside of Orlando), with my wife of 11+ years, Laisa, and our three children (ages 10, 8, & 3). I am the Director of Bands at St. Cloud Middle School, Worship Director for the upcoming Urbana 22 Missions Conference (to be held in Indianapolis, IN, in Dec. 2022), an in-demand worship leader, studio session player, and sideman, as well as a Church Worship consultant. 

Life is full but very enjoyable in this busy season! 🙂 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I can’t say that my life has been tough, but there have been a few challenges along the way. 

One struggle is leaning about my own identity as a multicultural individual. Who am I? Where do I belong? What is my purpose? 

Through many conversations, experiences, and more over the years, I realized the following: 

I am a native Ohioan of Puerto Rican descent who is quadrilingual (English, Spanish, French, & Portuguese) 

I am a cultural bridge (I can relate to folks of many different backgrounds, including those who have recently arrived from other countries as well as those who have generations of history here in the US) 

My story matters. I do not have to be ashamed of my path and where I am now. It is uniquely mine and will hopefully serve as an inspiration to others. 

Another struggle I have dealt with is being discriminated against because of my skin tone and Latin/Hispanic background. It is sad that this is a reality in 2022, but it only fuels my passion to help educate many about becoming culturally intelligent! 

My mottos/mantras are “Don’t Give Up” and “The future of the world depends on each of us.” I fully believe these statements. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a music educator, composer, professional musician, and worship leader. I specialize in playing the trumpet and flugelhorn in many styles (Jazz, Latin Jazz, Funk, Salsa, Pop, and more!). I am a gifted improvisor and have a knack for composing memorable melodies. 

I am also a passionate educator who wishes to inspire my students by modeling musicianship and a way of living that demonstrates yes; they can succeed IF they work hard, stay focused, respect others, and seize the moments of opportunity when they appear! 

I will say something that sets me apart from others is my drive to create and produce music which reflects various cultures. For example, when I write sacred music…I’m not concerned if it will sound like popular music on the radio…I want to combine/fuse musical styles, languages, time meters, and feels…into a new sound which shows that we can be informed from cultures from around the globe. Representation matters. We need each other! 

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
Isaac Newton said something like the following: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. 

I feel the same way therefore I must give honor to the following people: 

My parents, Patricio & Carmen Santiago – they provided a safe, loving household to grow up in…and also encouraged their children to pursue their goals 

Mrs. Diane Tucker, the band director who got me started on trumpet way back in 5th grade! Thank you!! 🙂 

My late high school band director, Mr. Bill Spruill: He challenged me to find time to spend with the people I love and to do the things that I love to do. 

Pharez Whitted – I studied Jazz Trumpet with him for 5 years at The Ohio State University. He is still a mentor, friend, and brother to me many years later! 

My wife, Laisa, who has supported my dreams for 13 years now. I know it’s not easy for her at times, but she has never given up on me. 🙂 

My three children, siblings, and nephews/nieces: they inspire me to keep getting better and blazing a pathway for decades to come! 

Anyone and everyone who has enjoyed my music and encouraged me to continue writing, playing, teaching, recording, & BE ME. 

Thank you all! 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Imer Santiago
Nancy Terzian
Jon Estes

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