The Salt & Pep­per Shak­ers Mu­si­cians

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPOS -

Tyler Hil­ton doesn’t re­mem­ber a time when he didn’t know the Vigil broth­ers — An­thony, Alex, and An­drew. “We grew up play­ing mu­sic to­gether,” he said. Now Tyler, Alex, An­thony — and some­times An­drew — play blue­grass, rock, and tra­di­tional Amer­i­cana to­gether as The Salt & Pep­per Shak­ers. They’ve had gigs at par­ties and fundrais­ers and re­cently played at Bor­rego’s Gui­tar and Mu­sic Sup­ply Co. on St. Michael’s Drive as part of an open house. They also busk down­town on the Plaza.

“I love in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple; it’s my fa­vorite thing,” Tyler said. “It’s a really good out­let for that. It’s good to get that kind of per­for­mance ex­pe­ri­ence in front of a crowd, but with noth­ing rid­ing on it. If we mess up, it’s not a big deal, and we wind up making a lit­tle bit of money.”

Tyler, age seven­teen and a se­nior at the Acad­emy for Tech­nol­ogy and the Clas­sics, is the out­go­ing spokesman for the group. He plays the gui­tar, banjo, and man­dolin. An­thony, fif­teen and a fresh­man at ATC, plays the bass gui­tar and banjo and is learn­ing pi­ano; Alex, a ju­nior, is six­teen, and plays gui­tar and man­dolin. An­drew, who al­ready grad­u­ated, is nine­teen; he plays the drums. They all sing. Their slightly un­usual mu­si­cal fo­cus is the re­sult of sev­eral years play­ing with the Acous­tic Amer­i­cana ensem­ble at ATC, a for-credit class at the char­ter school, which en­rolls stu­dents in grades seven through 12.

They say ATC mu­sic di­rec­tor Eric Carl­son has pushed them to em­brace more mu­si­cal styles: The Shak­ers’ reper­toire now in­cludes some tra­di­tional New Mex­i­can mu­sic. He has also helped in­crease their con­fi­dence lev­els so they can per­form and sing so­los. In Au­gust, the stu­dent ensem­ble played at the Santa Fe Old Time and Blue­grass Mu­sic Fes­ti­val at the county fair­grounds, and Tyler en­tered and won the banjo con­test. The Shak­ers also par­tic­i­pated in the cir­cles that crop up around the fes­ti­val, which meant jam­ming with mu­si­cians of all ages, from all over the coun­try.

“We’ve gone to a couple of blue­grass fes­ti­vals in New Mex­ico,” An­thony said. “You just start play­ing some­thing. Then a whole group gets to­gether, and you’re just play­ing.”

“It’s very wel­com­ing, very com­mu­nity ori­ented. That’s one of the things that draws me in,” Tyler said.

Among their in­flu­ences are Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, and Lester Flatt, as well as ZZ Top, Bos­ton, and Kansas. “The stuff Tyler likes isn’t nec­es­sar­ily acous­tic,” An­thony ex­plained, “but we try to play it acous­tic. We al­ways try to mix in dif­fer­ent styles to cre­ate our own.”

“I lis­ten to what I think sounds good. I don’t have to lis­ten to just one type of mu­sic or like some­thing just be­cause it’s in one genre,” Tyler said. “With all of us play­ing so many dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments, we can al­ways switch up what we’re do­ing — just ro­tate so that some­one plays some­thing else or some­one else sings.”

The Shak­ers will stay in Santa Fe af­ter high school. Tyler is look­ing into busi­ness classes at Santa Fe Com­mu­nity Col­lege and plans to even­tu­ally go into sales. Alex is in­ter­ested in art and graphic de­sign. An­thony doesn’t know what he might study, but he, too, will go to SFCC and work. None of them be­lieve re­ly­ing on mu­sic to sup­port them is a re­spon­si­ble plan, though they don’t in­tend to quit play­ing to­gether.

“A big part of our lives is that we’ve al­ways been fairly re­li­gious,” Tyler said. “We’re all Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses. From a young age I was taught that you don’t want to place all of your ef­fort into hav­ing a ca­reer or into recre­ation. In my opin­ion there are more im­por­tant things in life than go­ing to col­lege and mar­ry­ing off and making a bunch of money. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion is, I guess, what I’m try­ing to say. I’m try­ing to bal­ance so that one thing doesn’t de­tract from an­other.”

“For us, money is help­ful, but we don’t fo­cus on ac­quir­ing as much of it as we can,” An­thony said.

“With re­spect to leav­ing, I’ve al­ways loved Santa Fe,” said Alex. “Kids all say they can’t wait to leave here, but I love it. It’s home.” — Jen­nifer Levin

Left to right, Alex Vigil, Tyler Hil­ton, and An­thony Vigil; photo Jen­nifer Levin

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