Songwriter and solo-performance artist brings distinctive style back to the University of Miami for an exclusive concert during Alumni Weekend 2019.
A sound all his own, Raul Midón, B.M. ’90, builds textures and tones into his colorful solo performances.
Midón shares that he lives a life devoted to beating the odds and shattering stereotypes, learning his own lessons along the way. “As someone who has never seen, I’ve always felt at a disadvantage in that lyric writing is usually very visual,” he said. “People really relate to images, and I’ve never seen images. But what I realized early on is that you have to write from what you know, and I hear, touch and feel intensely – and those are sensations and experiences that everyone can relate to.”
Midón’s childhood fascination for music encompassed all genres. “I grew up surrounded by music, flamenco, classical, jazz,” shares Midón. “But one day, playing my Dad’s record collection while he was out, I came across a Charlie Parker and Miles Davis record. My Dad came home and said, ‘when did you get into Miles?’ I said, Papa get me more records like this. I was about 8 years old.”
A native of New Mexico, Midón always dreamed of studying at an exceptional Jazz program. “I wish I still had my college entrance essay,” said Midón. “The University of Miami was the first school to reply.”
Midón’s shares that his experience at Frost helped to shape his multifaceted career, both performing and writing music. “I had an amazing experience at UM. I made lifelong friends, I established lifelong habits, like practicing.”
Practicing and creating original music became his passion and forte, developing a signature, synergistic melodies and lyrical layers all his own.
“My friend John Fournier said we need to write music too, and I took that advice very seriously,” said Midón. “I am very proud that my last two records were nominated for Grammys back to back, and contained almost exclusively my original music.”
The title of Midón’s 2017 release Bad Ass and Blind came from an apt description of its creator and was endorsed by soul icon Bill Withers. The album includes a collaboration of Midón and top jazz players trumpeter Nicholas Payton and pianist Gerald Clayton, and earned Midón his first Grammy nomination for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance.” His rise continues with a second nod for If You Really Want on the Mack Avenue label.
Along with releasing 10 studio albums as a solo artist, Midón – dubbed “an eclectic adventurist” by People magazine – has collaborated with Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, and Bill Withers, along with contributing to recordings by Queen Latifah, Snoop Dogg and the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s She Hate Me.
For a glimpse of how magnetic Midón can be performing live, watch this clip of his debut appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2006. Performing “State Of Mind,” the title track from his major-label debut, Midón unveils what would become his signature combination of voice and percussive guitar, incorporating bass, harmony and melodic lines with only his two hands. In a unique sound, Midón busts out his improvisational “mouth-horn technique,” in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo with his lips.
Midón made his NPR Tiny Desk concert debut in 2018. They prefaced the concert with: “Raul Midón lives in a world of sound – blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand alongside the most accomplished jazz musicians.”
His next album “The Mirror” is slated for release in March 2020. After almost a decade living in NYC, Midón now resides in Maryland with his wife, Kathleen Midón, who also acts as his manager.
Midón dedicated the concert to his longtime friend and mentor, fellow Frost School of Music alumnus Dan Warner.