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The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

‘I believe that music can be understood by people from all walks of life’

Texas School of Music
Perez performs at a recital at the West University Community Center. The event was hosted by the music school she attends.

From halved empty coconuts to pianos, tambourines, keyboards, percussion and her new love of guitar, senior Valerie Perez has had an ear for music all her life.

Perez released her first song “number 29 and me” on SoundCloud on Aug. 5, 2023. She drew inspiration from the “catchy” chord progression of “Put Me in a Movie” by Lana Del Rey.

“I added lyrics directly inspired by the feeling of loving someone, yet having no choice but to hide it,” Perez said. “By no means is it a clean or perfect take of the song, but I think that’s why I like the sound so much.”

Releasing her first song has inspired Perez to explore songwriting further and improve as a musician.

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“My guitar teacher who’s been teaching me the last couple of years now is in the infamous local ska band Los Skarnales,” Perez said. “As a composer himself, he’s definitely taught me everything I know about songwriting and the theory behind it.”

Along with having other musicians to guide her, Perez’s biggest fan has supported her since the beginning.

 “Her style and confidence have evolved into an extremely diverse style and genre of music,” Perez’s mom, Annie Ortiz, said. 

According to Ortiz, Perez’s musical interest began when she was a year old.  

“I had my Dad’s CD in the car playing ‘Benny and the Jets’ by Elton John,” Ortiz said. “Whenever the song ended, she would yell from the car seat ‘Again!’ I’d play it again and the song would end, and she would yell ‘Again!’ over and over and over until I was delirious with the song.”

“Ever since I started playing guitar, [this has] always been my dream guitar,” Perez said. “So having it now is amazing and just as awesome as I imagined it to be!” (Valerie Perez)

Perez’s musical interests continued to grow when she started to make her own songs at age 3 with her family on vacation in Belize, where they learned how to crack coconuts from the locals. 

“One morning, my mom and I woke up early to make a great breakfast for the family,” Ortiz said. “Valerie was up with me and found two coconuts and she played with them on the floor. She used them as hand drums, like a Bongo. She was chatting words, humming and changing the tune with her pats to the shell.”

Perez’s grandmother asked her what she was doing.  

“She said in her cute 3-year-old voice, ‘I’m making a song,’ and she sang for the family while we had breakfast,” Ortiz said.

 She didn’t start to seriously pursue music until the age of 8, when her father gifted her a new guitar on Christmas Day. The instrument was left untouched until five years later, when the boredom of quarantine drove her to play it for the very first time. Perez started completely self-taught, learning from Youtube videos and online guitar tabs.

Soon, her interest in music started to get the attention of musicians around her, starting with the Tejano band ‘Zenteno Spirit’ when she went to see them play in person at 12 years old.

“A friend invited me to watch her husband sing in a band that was playing next door to my office building,” Ortiz said. “You can imagine the band seeing this young, beautiful, Latina child carrying her guitar and watching them intently, clapping her hands and singing songs that most children her age would never know.” 

During their break, the band came down and introduced themselves. The group asked Perez questions about her guitar and her interest in music, and Perez eventually mentioned that she was writing a song. 

“They were very impressed and asked if she wanted to sing her song in their next show,” Ortiz said. “She practiced at home for a week and without hesitancy she walked up, tuned with the band and sang her song like she’d been on stage a hundred times over.”

Since then, Ortiz has continued to encourage Perez’s interest in music and cheer her on from the audience.

“She’s my little rock star,” Ortiz said. 

Perez performs at a recital at the Cullen Performance Hall at the University of Houston. (Texas School of Music)

Starting her junior year, Perez started taking lessons at the Texas School of Music. From there, her new knowledge of music sparked inspiration for songwriting. 

“I’ve always written silly songs since I was little, but I started taking it seriously when I began taking classes,” Perez said. “For assignments, I’d be given a chord progression to write over. From there, I got into songwriting naturally as it was a fun way to express myself, convey important messages or tell a story.”

A member of the school jazz band, Perez plays bass with her bandmate, senior Maurya Manjunath. The two also participated in the club Music as Medicine’s’s performance last semester on Dec. 13. 

“We expose music to each other and we always have something new to share,” Manjunath said. “Whenever we play together, Valerie takes the rhythm parts and I usually play the lead. We both play to our strengths.”

The two hope to pursue music and play gigs together after high school. Perez plans to pursue music full-time by majoring in music business at Houston Community College before attending the Institute of Music Performance in London.

“I believe that music can be understood by people from all walks of life,” Perez said. “The more we make deeper connections to music, the easier it is to come together and empathize with others.”

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    ellaFeb 16, 2024 at 2:51 pm

    great story!