Ashley Lucero is a Texas based composer, performer, and teacher. Lucero was recently commission by the ACG Youth Orchestra for their Tour March 12th – 17th.  In this interview, she discusses her compositions, and specific challenges and inspirations for the Youth Orchestra piece. 

What are your earliest experiences in music?

My parents are both musicians, and my father’s side of the family has a history of musicianship for generations. I would attend my father’s concerts when he played the french horn in the community orchestra and I would create stories along with the music as I listened. I have been singing and creating my own songs for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest experiences with music performance, was singing Christmas music at nursing homes when I was about 6 years old while my sister played the piano. I was extremely shy and hated being complimented for my voice. I went on to learn piano and violin later. However, I never took as keen an interest in them as I did when I picked up the guitar at the age of 17.

What did you grow up listening too?

My parents were both 60’s babies so I heard a lot of 80’s hits around the house, but my dad was always listening to Beethoven and other various classical composers. I believe this really helped me in developing my ear. When I hit middle school, I continued to listen to classical music, but also began listening to a broad variety of styles such as punk rock, ska, and music from many other countries around the world. My parents tried as hard as they could to keep my from listening to pop music and rap when I was younger because they hated the message most of it sent, and I really appreciate that now in a way. 

What are you doing now?

I am currently an adjunct professor at the Baptist University of the Americas in South San Antonio. There I am the guitar instructor and I also teach music theory classes. I am preparing to audition for USC in Los Angeles, and I gig pretty regularly as a soloist. I recently formed a new guitar duo with a good friend of mine, a Cuban guitarist, and we are called Duo Morningstar.

Can you talk about some of the themes you explore in your music? Both as a composer and performer?

As a composer and a performer, my goal is to be as honest as possible. By honesty, I mean avoiding the ego and my belief systems as a backdrop – because they can be very inhibitive. I believe that is the best way to connect with an audience and to improve as an artist.

What are some influences in your work?

I am highly influenced by the music that I play, so that changes depending on what I am learning and performing at the time. For example, my earlier music was highly influenced by Baden Powell, Astor Piazzolla, and Roland Dyens. While I studied at UTSA, my music reflected characteristics of my teacher Matthew Dunne’s music and Leo Brouwer along with my old influences. I also include elements of flamenco guitar in my solo works because I love playing flamenco and I have obsessively listened to Paco de Lucia for about 4 years straight. 

How do you hope your work influences or affects others?

First off, I want people to know that it is possible for audiences to connect with contemporary classical music. Secondly, I hope that other young guitarist composers can be inspired by how hard I strive to write guitar music that is fun to play but is also sophisticated and challenging. Third, I want young women and those in disadvantaged positions to know that their struggles are valid and constructive towards their journeys as artists. And my own selfish hopes are that my music will open people’s hearts and minds to explore any imaginative inclinations they might have while listening to my music.

What are you hoping to accomplish as an artist? 

To remain truthful in my composing, teaching, and performing, and to help others that so desperately want to do great things feel hopeful and confident in the possibilities that exist in their favor. I want to share my discoveries with anyone willing to listen to my music or my words. 

Can you talk a little about your composition for the ACGYO?

Magpie Lullaby is a simple yet deceptively challenging piece written in four parts. It is based on the well-known lullaby by Johannes Brahms and features charming little harmonies and textures. Its meant to be a bit of a paradox because it is a lullaby that gets a little rowdy near the middle in homage to the talkative nature of the magpie, but ends with a satisfactory lulling nature.

What are some challenges to composing for a student ensemble?

When composing for anyone you must be aware of their skill level, so with a student ensemble it can be very easy to over-simplify things in fear that they won’t be up for a challenge. As an educator, I am very aware of how to push students’ limits so I think I can more successfully play off of that specific challenge in my writing. 

How does working with this ensemble inspire you?

I have always been a fan of the ACGYO and Joe William’s work as a director. I played in the guitar orchestra at the Belton Guitar conference twice under his direction, so I know first hand his standards and expectations.

Seeing young guitarists play so refined is inspiring and to be a part of it is extremely exciting. I have taught young students ensemble music before and hope to do so again in the future, so seeing the possibilities through ACGYO’s work is inspiring for me as an educator.

If you would like to know more about the ACG Youth Orchestra Tour, you can click here.