Odalys Ramirez got her hands on a pair of drum sticks for the first time in sixth grade. Since then, she’s been playing, performing and feeling connected to music. It’s the foundation of who she is.
Ramirez is a senior at Cal Poly Humboldt majoring in music performance with an emphasis in percussion. Now she plays the congas, snare drums, marimbas, calypsos, drum sets and more.
“It feels amazing,” Ramirez said. “It feels really good. Percussion or drums are really like the metronome to the band so it’s really fun to be the foundation of the band.”
When Ramirez first came to Cal Poly Humboldt from Los Angeles and was settling in her dorm in the Cypress building, she heard music coming from the lawn. She walked towards the music and found the Marching Lumberjacks. They immediately asked Ramirez to join and handed her a tambourine. She marched with them all the way back to the band room and her musical journey here began.
Ramirez is currently in several musical groups and plays a variety of instruments with different rhythms and sounds. She has been a part of the Marching Lumberjacks since 2017 and plays the snare. She is also a part of a calypso band and in the Eureka Symphony. In 2020 she joined the Tropiqueño salsa band where she plays the congas and also joined a samba group.
“When you play with a group of people it’s super cool to feel like everyone is on the same page, locked in,” Ramirez said. “It’s like a feeling of you don’t even have to look at them, you don’t have to do anything, you just feel it, locked in.”
Balancing practice for each group can be difficult but Ramirez doesn’t view it as a bad thing. She sees college and the past years she’s been in Arcata as an opportunity to get as much knowledge as she can.
“For example, salsa and samba are very physically exhausting,” Ramirez said. “I do get lost into the music in a good way like it feels good. I don’t really have to think much, I kinda just feel it.”
Some musical groups require more concentration to count the beats of the music and the thinking can take a toll on how mentally tired Ramirez can feel. The other bands that are of the salsa and samba genre, for example, can be physically exhausting on Ramirez’s hands.
Ramirez’s inspirations for music are her grandfather who played guitar, her father and his love for salsa music and rhythm, Selena and a Canadian rock band called Metrics.
“Selena is a big inspiration but as I developed my music taste I like everything,” Ramirez said. “I like to appreciate everything because every art form is meaningful. I like that music has some sort of meaning to the artist or to the audience.”
As a musician, Ramirez doesn’t get nervous before a performance, she gets nervous while performing. All the emotions she should feel before performing come to her in a rush during the performance.
“You’re in the moment and it’s nice to not be able to think and just kinda feel,” Ramirez said. “So definitely the reward of performing is making friends and family proud.”
Graduating in May 2023, Ramirez hopes to move back to southern California to apply for symphony positions, look out for studio musician opportunities or get a gig with Walt Disney to play music.
“I do in the future want to teach, not necessarily like I’m going to work at a school as a music teacher. I want to lead,” Ramirez said. “For example, in the samba group we have an HSU alumni Neil and he leads and teaches at the same time. It’s really cool because we don’t really use music. It’s like I show you how to play, you play it over. It’s a good way to teach because you’re memorizing.”
Ramirez would like to teach future generations world drums because there are rhythms people may have not heard, felt, or know the history and origins of the percussion instruments.
“I would like to show future generations where all of their music comes from,” Ramirez said. “It comes from old rhythms from West Africa. It all comes from a place and I would like to teach where they come from.”
Want to see Ramirez perform?
You can watch the calypso band on April 23 at the Theater Arts Building/Van Duzer Theatre at 8 p.m. Ramirez will also be performing her Senior Recital at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Thurs., May 12 at 8 p.m. It will also be live-streamed on Youtube @Calpolyhumboldtmusicprogram.