Alfredo Muro’s mother, like most mothers, wanted her son to pick a more stable career than music. But Muro, like most headstrong youngsters, wanted to follow his heart — he’d fallen in love with the guitar.
It’s not that his mother didn’t understand the lure of music, herself the president of a tango club in their hometown of Lima, Peru.
In fact, Muro’s whole family was teeming with creativity.
“I grew up in a very musical family,” he says over a Skype call recently. “I can count 20, 25 members of the family; they were singers, poets, great dancers. … Even some of our relatives from the north of Peru… How do they call the people that work in the circus?”
Amazing, I offer. Muro laughs.
The Peruvian guitarist picked up the instrument when he was 10 and began teaching himself Mexican boleros, songs filled with love in all its forms, from the unrequited to the eternal.
The guitar pulled Muro into its gravitational field with its rich, emotional tones, with the precise technique it demanded to play the Argentine zamba and Brazilian bossa nova music that Muro loved.
“I’ve always said the guitar is the easiest instrument to play, and the hardest to play well,” Muro says with a laugh.
But the young Muro was a natural.
At just 13, Muro and his sister, Connie, teamed up and decided to compete on a year-long Peruvian television show called Trampoline to Fame, Connie singing with Alfredo on acoustic guitar.
“And we changed our names, me and my sister, ’cause we were afraid my mother was… she didn’t want us to commit to music professionally, you know, she was afraid,” Muro says. “She said, ‘No, you have to find something more solid, more serious.’ But we won, and since then we couldn’t stop that.”
(They called themselves Hermanos Lopez Bravo and, for the record, Muro says he and his sister could only keep the secret from their mother for a few days at best. “Since everybody watched the program, my mother heard from her friends about the duet,” he says. “She was surprised and very happy, so she supported us from the first day she knew it.”)
Muro has spent the last five decades studying, playing and teaching guitar across the globe. His passion is classical music, with a particular focus on Latin American fare — his roots. To watch Muro play is to witness a human fully engaged in what Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow, that mental state of complete and total absorption in the task at hand. When Muro plays, his focus doesn’t come from any external pressure; his drive to share music is programmed into his very being. The music tells him what to do, not the other way around. There is a look of pure joy — love, happiness, contentment — as Muro plays. His exuberance is contagious.
“I like to play classical, you know, and so I play Bach, [Isaac] Albéniz, [Heitor] Villa-Lobos, [Agustín Pío] Barrios. I do that with a lot of respect, you know?” Muro says. “And when I approach Latin music, Flamenco music, tango, I feel like I’m already flying, totally free. There are many ways to express music, like a fingerprint. We are unique and the way that we touch any instrument is different than any other and the way that we express it is different. I love the freedom that you have in jazz and Latin music.”
While he’s played at international guitar festivals from South America to Asia, and once played for the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, Muro doesn’t measure his success with these types of accomplishments.
“I’m not that kind of player that says, ‘I feel so important because I played this very renowned festival or big auditoriums.’ No, I don’t believe in big or small auditoriums,” he says with a laugh. “I believe in the music and what I’m providing to the audience — what is my mission? That makes me feel so proud, to know that the guitar became my international passport to the world. It took me to many places, I don’t care how big or small, but that’s the most important thing to me, that it made me connect with different cultures, with different people.”
ON THE BILL: Alfredo Muro. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2, Larry’s Guitar Workshop, 508 Fifth Ave., Longmont; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, Dan and Diane’s Concert Series, Mennonite Church, 3910 Table Mesa Drive, Boulder; 7 p.m. Saturday, May 4, Center for the Arts, 31880 Rocky Village Drive, Evergreen; 7 p.m. Friday, May 10, Academy Senior Living, 970 Aurora Ave., Boulder; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, The Arts Hub, 420 Courtney Way, Lafayette. Tickets at alfredomuro.com