Updated: Dec 3, 2018
Little did he know that while on a business trip to New York City his life would change forever. In this episode Victor Velazquez tells us what sparked his passion for the handpan and what keeps him going to gatherings year after year.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain. And this is the handpan podcast!
Sylvain: One of my favorite things about this new podcast is that I get to sit down with friends and hear their story. Now, the main event in most of our handpan stories is the same: we discover a remarkable instrument and it changes our lives in some way. But while the event is the same, every story is unique—that's the art of being human—and I always learn from these conversations. This episode with my friend Victor Velasquez is no different. Hope you enjoy.
Sylvain: Hey Victor. Thanks for joining me on this episode of the handpan podcast.
Victor: Well, Sylvain. Thank you very much for having me. I'm glad the podcast is back in the air because I have been missing it and I'm glad to be part of it.
Sylvain: Well, it's my pleasure and I feel the same way. It's, it's good to give it a second life. So you and I have met multiple times over the past few years, mostly at handpan gatherings and I always enjoy our conversations, but I realized that I don't know that much about your own story. Um, would you mind saying a little bit about where you're from, where you live now and maybe what got you started with the handpan?
Victor: I'm from Puerto Rico and I moved to Michigan in Ann Arbor because of my job I had to leave the sun and the surf. I'm an airline pilot and um, uh, on my trips, I was in New York City walking through central park and I heard this guy playing a handpan. So I had never seen one. I sat next to him and a little while later after he stopped, the question was, what the heck is that? And where can I get one? So, uh, he directed me to handpan.org and uh, it took off from there. I had to get one right away. So I got a Bali from a shop in France, at an extra prize, but I needed to have it right then. So after I joined the, uh, the, uh, handpan.org, it kind of took off from there.
Sylvain: So you joined the community right away by, by joining the forum. handpan.org?
Victor: Yes. Yeah. As most people say it has changed my life.
Sylvain: Yeah, that's great to hear. And it's also fun that you discovered the handpan in person, um, because increasingly obviously, uh, with uh, social media and youtube more and more people are discovering it online, which can have just the same impact, but it's pretty special to hear it in person.
Victor: Yeah. I'm, I'm not sure if I would have been so attracted to it, if I had listened to it online as, you know, being next to it and the vibration and I play guitar and I'd like to jam. And then I found in the handpan and freedom of exploration and of composition and, and was kind of something I was looking for. And you can play on your lap and you can make all kinds of music. It's great.
Sylvain: So you played other musical instruments before?
Victor: Yeah, I've been playing the guitar since I was 12.
Sylvain: Okay. Were you classically trained or were you self-taught?
Victor: No. I got some, some classes like Spanish music and singing, but I only have like music 101 and the other music I have learned has been just by the interest in the guitar. But when I found out about the handpan, I learned a lot more about music, playing the handpan and being in gatherings and talking to other people and I think that it has expanded my knowledge of music a lot and um, it has motivated me to probably in the future get some, some more classes on music.
Sylvain: So after your early beginnings, over the years, you've acquired quite a sizable collection of instruments.
Victor: I've been getting instruments and sometimes I want to sell one and then I try to make a youtube video and then I connect back with it and I say, no, I'm not ready to get rid of this one yet. So it's just been increasing.
Sylvain: I understand that because although I, I relate and I like the concept of minimalism, which is that less is more. Oftentimes it's when we have fewer things in our lives that we enjoy them most. It's hard with handpans because they sort of become the soundtrack of your life. And so parting ways with a handpan means no longer being able to play maybe the songs you've written on that instrument. I haven't quite found the answer on how to deal with that. And so you mentioned, um, handpan gatherings quite a bit and I think you and I have met, um, we were just in Colorado at a steel mountain, but we've also met up I think at Pantasia in California and maybe HangOut USA.
Victor: Yes. I think we have met at least three or four times.
Sylvain: What got you motivated to, to join these handpan gatherings in person?
Victor: Well, it was again in the handpan.org forum. I just wanted to meet people and learn from them. Uh, and uh, my first one was in Song of the Forest in 2013 and it was a new experience because I met people that I never met before, their lifestyle, their way of thinking, their way of living and the way they play the handpan, especially a that first gathering had a, had a big influence on me.
Sylvain: I heard it was a really special gathering.
Victor: Yeah, that was a, that was a special gathering. Yes. A wonderful place to have a gathering.
Sylvain: And so what do you get out of these events the most? What keeps you going there?