Music has always played a role in Laura dePaz Cabrera’s life, and juggling a marriage, two great kids and a career as an immigration lawyer, Laura still finds time to enjoy music, especially the fulfillment she finds in singing and how it allows her an opportunity to tap into her creative and artistic side.

How does singing and occasionally playing secondary percussion help you live a full and balanced life?
Life is busy! I run an immigration law practice, my husband is a hard working mortgage loan officer and I have two amazing children who have way more energy than I ever remember having. Add to that plenty of volunteer and professional obligations outside of the regular 9-5 and it can sometimes (read: a lot of times) be a bit overwhelming. To me, music is my therapy; a way to disconnect and express myself creatively in a world where most of my actions are governed by cause and effect, black and white, point A to point B responsibilities.  When I add to that the fact that most of my singing and secondary percussion endeavors involve my family, I am able to combine two things that best define me as a person – my family and music.

What is your music mantra?
Music is the perfect language.

How long have you been singing?
There are VHS tapes buried in my parent’s house somewhere of me belting out “Wind Beneath My Wings” sometime in the mid-1980’s, complete with hand gestures and dramatic effects. I was 3 or 4 years old. “Professionally” – since 2005.

Can you tell us how you started?
My dad has been a musician since before I was born and growing up there was NEVER a moment of silence at our house. My earliest memories are waking up on Saturday mornings where my mom would be blasting Juan Luis Guerra or Mocedades armed with a broom and a mop doing Saturday morning house cleaning. Every family occasion had background music and most weekends ended up with my dad and whoever else was around having a bohemia (an unplugged gathering of musicians performing classic songs from Latin America, similar to a jam session) in our living room.

I was always interested in music and I took violin lessons for many years as pre-teen. I loved singing but my dad was very cautious about letting me get ‘too’ into the music scene…he wanted me to be in an established career before focusing too much on music. After finishing my first year of law school, my dad finally let me start singing in his band and I’ve been doing it ever since then.

What is your favorite composition to sing and what does it mean to you?
There are so many to choose from but I’ll probably go with the very first song I ever sang ‘formally’ in a public setting. My dad likes to joke that I chose one of the most complicated songs for my singing debut. It’s a Puerto Rican song featuring a type of style called Alondra de los Bosques by a composer named Carlos Padilla. The song is a “contra canto” style song, where two lead voices sing simultaneously, but they sing different words and different melodies. It’s a beautiful song once it is all put together. I sang it with my father for my grandparent’s 45th wedding anniversary when I was 12-13 years old in front of all of my Puerto Rican family and friends. To this day, I sing the song with my dad during one of our many bohemias.

What are some of the wellness benefits you find from singing and secondary percussion?
Creative outlet for sure. The type of career I have and other ‘life’ responsibilities don’t leave a lot of time for creative expression. Singing, percussion and the dancing that happens during both, is a great way to tap into that artistic side of my personality that isn’t usually front and center during your average day. Not to mention that during most of our events, especially in this Florida weather, I work up enough of a sweat between singing and dancing to count for SEVERAL workouts!

Do you have any musicals or events that you would like to complete on your bucket list?
Following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we came together with several other local musicians for a benefit concert to raise funds for those affected by the storm. The format for the first part of that concert was different than what we usually perform as a band (our band performs, in large part, danceable music – merengue, salsa, bachata…anything that gets people up and moving). The concert we did was a much more ‘unplugged’ style featuring music either from Puerto Rico or about Puerto Rico. Many songs we sang talked about the beauty of the island, the remarkable people, our pride and Puerto Rican history. The concert was a very emotional set of music and showcased a side of us as musicians that we don’t usually show to the public (although it was very similar to the bohemias we have among our close friends and family).

We would love, as a band, a family and as individuals to take that same set to our native Puerto Rico and perform it in my father’s hometown of Jayuya which is up in the mountain and is still far from recovered from the devastation of the hurricane.  For me, music is also very much a way for me to keep my culture and heritage alive. Most of the music I sing and perform is from Latin America, quite a bit from Puerto Rico. Music defined us culturally growing up, almost as much as the language we spoke and it still does today. To be able to perform songs about our island, in our island and for our friends and family on the island is most certainly a bucket list performance!

What are you practicing for right now?
The vast majority of our performances are for private events such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. However, every September we perform at the downtown Bo Diddley plaza in conjunction with the City of Gainesville and the Latina Womens’ League Downtown Latino Film Festival. The event is always one of our favorites because the plaza is filled to capacity with over 1000 people dancing and singing and enjoying their evening. It’s a blast and we can’t wait.

How would you encourage others to start living a full and balanced life through music?
Music is universal…whether its listening to energizing tracks while working out, some serene music while meditating or doing yoga, or background music in the car on your way to work while organizing your thoughts, music is everywhere. It makes us happy or makes us sad; makes us remember past moments; makes us excited; makes us hopeful. In a time where so much is focused on the present, and the means to an end, music can make us stop and help us feel. The act of ‘feeling’ is so simple, yet, in my opinion, takes a back burner to our ‘goal focused’ way of life. Music can help us tap into that database of emotion and the more we allow that side of ourselves to be stimulated and developed, the more we can put our whole selves into all that we do. I also think music is an amazing way to explore other cultures.

What is your daily (or weekly) music routine like?
My husband likes to joke that he doesn’t understand how I can work with music in the background but I find that I am most functional when I have music to guide my day. While driving into work, I alternate between NPR and music on my phone (call me old fashioned but I’m not a huge fan of current top-40 hits). As soon as I get to the office, I turn on Pandora to match my mood. We try to have rehearsals as a band at least once every two weeks to add new songs or keep fresh on our repertoire.

At the moment, my favorite part of my music routine is watching my daughter fall in love with music like my older children did. She has a ‘playlist’ on my phone of about 30 songs that she asks for by name (both in Spanish and English…even a French one in there) and at night, we have a routine of singing a certain set of songs right before bed. There are three typical Puerto Rican lullabies that we sing and we always end with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” Shortly after her second birthday, Camila began to sing the song by herself, so now our routine is that she sings it first and I sing it second.
Music has meant so much to me in my life, and has been such a huge way to connect with my family and especially my parents, that I am beyond elated that both of my children can share in that connection as well.

What is the most important lesson being a singer has taught you?
That you don’t need to do much to make people happy – the right song at the right time might be just what that person needs to turn a bad day into a good one.

What is one thing you wouldn’t sing without?
For me, my music, and my singing means family. This creative outlet, and the way it acts as a sort of therapy for me, just wouldn’t be the same if my family weren’t involved. My dad, my mom, my youngest brother and my husband are all in the band. If they weren’t part of this musical journey with me, it just wouldn’t be the same.

Laura’s Favorites
Favorite way to wind down from a busy week: PJ’s, a glass of wine and playing a competitive round of Phase 10 with my husband and son.

Favorite book:
I love reading and am a book nerd, so this is a bit hard. If pressed, I’d have to say Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.

Favorite ways to relax:
Any kind of travel…we have a travel trailer and love to take a weekend here and there to explore somewhere new and disconnect. Some people crave solitude to connect, I crave togetherness with those who matter most to me – my family.

Go-to meal/restaurant in Gainesville:
Mofongo from Emilianos. Any day of the week, breakfast lunch or dinner!