Making "Let's Make Christmas" 

Demo recordings can be a proof of concept.

         Let’s Make Christmas picks up in the middle of a story. Maybe it’s part of a larger musical. Maybe it just captures a moment. Early Études, vol 8: Christmas Musical Workshop features two sketches of the song.

The version with one voice, and Horace Beasley on the piano, gives an idea of the accompaniment.

The duet version, “Let’s Make Christmas” is an authentic demonstration of the values behind the song: cariño, rich cultural context, vocal lyricism of family singing together.

It was me and my cousin Cindy at a piano on the sidelines of a family Thanksgiving. It demonstrates what the song’s about: making it work. We only had a few minutes while Cindy’s three daughters were otherwise entertained, to study and capture the song.

Straight Outta the Rec’ Room: Hiphop 8/11, Affordable Housing, Cultural Space 

Happy 8/11!

Hip-hop heads revere the founders S. Bronx founders of our movement for “making something out of nothing”. It’s a poetic affirmation of the great barriers that our founders overcame. But literally, nothing comes from nothing. Life comes from life. Culture springs from cultures. Ubuntu: a person becomes a person among people.

            The site most celebrated as “Hiphop’s Birthplace” isn’t nothing; it’s affordable housing, with a rec room. Key resources for the midwifery of Hiphop included:

-Affordable housing, 1520 Sedgewick Ave built and maintained with public subsidies*, home to the Campbell family.

-Cultural space, a rec room, where Clive Campbell/DJ Kool Herc could DJ a party that his sister Cindy Campbell promoted.

            Hiphop isn’t something out of nothing. It’s something out of a rec’ room.

            Do you love Hip-Hop? A good birthday present for Hiphop this year and every year would be more affordable housing and accessible cultural spaces.


*1520 Sedgewick is a Mitchell-Lama building. It's called a “non-subsidy” program, but that's just incomplete accounting. Government policy supported resources for affordable housing are it's origin.

When I Think of Home- Wildness, Grace and Our Freistadt Beyond 

As religious refugees from the King of Prussia, my maternal ancestors named the place they escaped to their “Freistadt” (Free-town). It wasn’t quite a town; it started with a church: Trinity Lutheran Church- Freistadt. 

While living in Puerto Rico, my mom, Carolyn Wille Rivera, wrote an ebullient essay about growing up on a farm where she met God in nature, witnessed the everyday heroism of her parent’s farm-work and the steeple of that Freistadt beyond. When the Orfeo Duo gave me a chance to write something for their "What a Neighborhood!" concert series, I wanted to set passages of my mom's lyrical remembrance. That meant writing a voice part I couldn't sing, and instruments I couldn't play. That meant writing sheet music. 

I didn't know how to do that. When I Think of Home is how I learned.

I imagined how the dramatic outpouring of emotion I feel for my mother’s words and ancestral memories might sound when played out by piano, violin and operatic soprano.

I recorded the whole thing first with my voice, singing both the parts for voice (an octave down) and the instrumental parts wordless as best I could. That recording sounds rough. No one will ever hear it, but my intention was clear. I realized I could do this. I could bring the drama of the page and into carefully planned polyphony. Now I just had to translate it into sheet music that could be played. This was the 2010's. No AI to help. I learned a sheet music software enough to be able to enter one note at a time and then play it back to make sure that's what I intended. I soon realized that I didn't need to listen back to my vocal record, the composition had taken root in my aural imagination. The process took, maybe, 150 hours or so of work.

At the end, I am still only beginning to have any technique in classical comp., but I do have a voice as a composer of music-drama. Thanks to Leanna Hieber, then my foremost interpreter, and the Orfeo Duo for tackling this thorny bouquet of love, emotion and passion. Your virtuoso performances deliver all the beauty and emotion the score intends, while barely hinting how demanding the work is on the performers. If I have the chance to re-write, I'd make it less difficult to perform. And I'd like to go over the score with my mentors Dr. Abe Cáceres and Horace Beasley, to understand how. And to figure out what the heck I was doing here in terms of music theory? I think it's uhm..."a motif driven polyphonic dialectic whose apparent harmonic stability belies a poly-tonality straining between C major, the Phrygian mode and reaching for a G Major 'Freistadt' beyond". However, even though, I think I know what all those words mean separately, no one has ever explained to me what they might mean together.

When I Think of Home has been about growth, time, cultivation, wildness and above all, Grace, reaching toward our Freistadt beyond. Thanks to all who made it happen. Thanks for listening generously to this imperfect recording of a very good performance. Please consider subscribing to support further development.

6 Albums in 3 Months, Now on Bandcamp 

Just under the wire, at about 10pm on March 31st, I reached my creative goal for Jan-March 2023: 6 albums in 3 months! I am grateful. Listen for free at with no log in, or build our collection and support the work. Bandcamp is easy for artists and fun for listeners.

Womyn of Color Leaders: Something to Sing About! 

"Me Gusta Pierina” is a song I made to remind my friend of her truth.

We need to do more than clap back attacks on exemplary leaders like on AOC and Ketanji Brown Jackson. We need to sing their their beautiful truths. 

When my friend from church, Pierina Sánchez, announced she was running for NY City Council, I was overjoyed, but I wasn’t sure how I could help. Then came the attacks on her authenticity. That is something a trovadór can tackle. 

I let my pen go to work to remind my friend of her truth, imagining her supportive afri-Dominican tias telling her: 

“¡Negrita linda fuerte y capáz! 

No es justo, 

But you know 

You’ve got to do más, 

Pero nunca olvides de donde vendrás.” 

“Negrita” here means not just “Black woman”, it means “My dear Black woman”. It my means “Beloved”. So it’s like: 

“My beloved, beautiful, strong and capable Black girl! 

It’s not fair, 

But you know, 

You have to got to do more (ie. than others, than you should have to). 

But never forget where you come from.” 

You come from love.

You serve in love.

To love you shall return.

Love centering women of color leaders exemplify these truths.

We need to do more than clap back against false and hateful attacks on AOC, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Pierina Anna Sánchez: We need to sing their their beautiful truths, in love and service.

Sunday 9/12/21, Praying with a Saint of 9/11/2001 

Classes were cancelled as we got word of the attacks, on the morning of 9/11/2001. The head of the dance department assembled students in one studio. The first thing she said was, “You must realize, we are going to war.” 

How might the last twenty years have been different if, instead, the first thing we said had been, 

“Lord take me where you want me to go. 

Let me meet who you want me to meet. 

Tell me what you want me to say, 

And keep me out of your way. 


-Prayer of Father Mychal Judge OFM, FDNY Chaplain, first recorded casualty at the WTC, 9/11 2001. 

I learned his story from Saint of 9/11.

This Sunday, we remember and we pray at TLC of NYC. Music Director Horace Beasley and I will perform my setting of “Mychal’s Prayer”:

Sunday 9/12/21, 11Am Eastern

Trinity Lutheran Church 

164 W 100th Street in Manhattan 


From Love to Love to Love- 

Yo soy de la Guagua, 


Costly Grace, Music in Dialogue with MLK's Legacy 

When Dr. King said “We, as a people, will get to the promised land!”, he was speaking to a mostly African American christian community engaged in a struggle for the dignity of striking sanitation workers. He was intimately communicating a message of hope to a beloved community. Yet ,Dr. King's sense of who “we” are, was expansive, disruptive and transformative. 

I badly want to be a part of that “we”,a part of Dr. King’s beloved community. But if we, as Dr. King said, are ‘’caught in a network of mutuality”, what would this gracious belonging cost me? What would it cost us? 

Costly Grace wrestles with these questions from Dr. King. Costly Grace is my Gospel/Rap oratorio project, in conversation with the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here's a one minute short video intro to Costly Grace:

Thanks to for helping me create this work as an artist in residence. 

Thanks to Luther Seminary for inviting me to workshop the project at Luther’s Beloved Community Institute. 

More on Twitter @MarcosylaGuagua and 

Peace, Blessings and Thanks for Listening, 


¡Yo soy de la Guagua! 

Vamos juntos.

Solidarity and Syncretism: It seems like Beto takes it personally  

I Don’t Agree with his Conservative Policies, Pero...I Ain’t Mad at Beto for “Code Switching”. 

Mr. O’Rourke clearly seemed to take the recent racist massacre in El Paso personally. On a policy level, I hope he will adopt Julian Castro’s view on decriminalizing immigration in the aftermath. I hope his policy may evolve because Mr O’Rourke’s level of authentic emotion seems to contrast with that I’ve heard in responses from other anglo “white dudes”, such as President Trump and former VP Biden in response this terrorism. Maybe you think Beto’s just reacted more emotionally because of he’s from there, but, yeah. Exactly. What might it mean to Mr. O’Rourke to be from El Paso

Maybe he feels the horror of this racist attack so personally because, on the inside, he really is Beto.   

Mr O’rourke has been criticized for using his nickname in his political career. Although he was clearly called Beto from a young age, he also admits to having chosen it as his public “brand” to appeal to Hispanix. Is that “cultural appropriation” or mestizaje

I experience this criticism of cultural misappropriation as hinging on a gringo way to frame the question of identity: identities being seen as binary and genetically fixed from birth. Mestizaje, conversely, implies that human identities syncretic, nuanced and even conflicted, and born of relationships, experience and history. 

Mestizaje is a concept that emerged out of the horrifically violent social relations of America latina’s past and present. However, mestizaje may also imply insights gleaned by the survivors of this horror: Humans influence other humans when our cultures come into contact. I am not saying that cultural mis-appropriation for economic gain is not a real problem, but I think of it is an aspect of more broadly exploitative social relations. The syncretic mestizo observation I offer is: whether our relations lead to solidarity, empathy and cooperation, or segregation, hatred and exploitation, there is no scenario where one human intimately relates to another human without both humans’ beings being irrevocably changed. 

Being offended by Beto being Beto, or speaking Spanish, may be related to an impulse to make “white” people act “white” and contain mestizaje latino-americano to the south of “the Border“.  The offense could also be defensive from the point of view of some gente latina. But why do european Americans have to be so “whitened” and monolingual? Why does latin American cultural influence have to be so small, fragile and scarce? 

When Mr O’Rourke,  Senator Booker and Mayor Deblasio were mocked in US anglo media as if their attempts to use Spanish in the first debate were grotesque, I perceived the enforcement of the narrowness of permissible gringo identities through public shaming. I hope US “woke” folk will reconsider this shaming in the aftermath of the el Paso attacker's terrorist manifesto. I’d love it if all US candidates spoke Spanish and had a criollo nickname. Beto’s criollo code switching can seem desperately eager at times. Maybe that’s because he feels the stakes differently. Other candidates may have wanted to speak some Spanish because of who their constituents were, or who the audience on Telemundo was, but Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Castro may have felt the need to represent who they themselves were. Whether by nickname or last name both men have lived experience in relation to la frontera

Maybe all people, including european Americans along with gente latina, can have fluid, complex, resilient identities. Maybe the boundary between the U.S. and the rest of the Americas can never be impermeable, no matter how brutally that boundary may be policed. Maybe even rich kids, labeled “white”, growing up on the side of the border where power and privilege are concentrated, can be authentically and irrevocably influenced by closeness to la frontera. 

If we can envision and actualize these kinds of “webs of mutuality”, we can offer a real alternative vision of the future to the “replacement” theory of “white nationalists”: A future where blending does not mean ending. If brother Beto wants to be a part of that future, I say: Bienvenidos, manos a la obra 

¡Viva la Raza Cosmica y Mestiza! 

Peace, Blessings and Thanks for Listening. 

Yo soy Marcos de Jesús, 
y yo soy de la Guagua.

Baile de Cortéz 

Guaguer@s Estimad@s, 

Here is my musical homage to Alexandria Ocasio Cortéz: “Baile de Cortéz" 

Baile de Cortés means “dance of courtesy”, a description of AOC’s unique combination of warriorship, grit, graciousness, empathy and kindness. 

The video features voices and the rhythms of Danza and Bomba puertoriqueña. My duet partner is one of the greatest interpreters of the Puerto Rican lyrical songbook alive, mi papá, Don Miguel de Jesús. 

The complete Span-glish lyrics are below. 

Peace, Blessings and Thanks for Listening, 



Baile de Cortéz 
by Marcos de Jesús,

Homenaje a la Honorable Alexandria Ocasio Cortéz 

Marcos:    Hermana, estoy cansado 

De vivir    siempre bregan-do, 

Papi:    Y casi nunca ganando, 

Pero usted me tiene re- animado. 

M:    Se hace el camino al andar, 

P:    Pero asi- ay que caminar! 

M:        Hacia una vision moral 

        Que al pueblo puede inspirar. 

P        Con la cortesia de mi clase 

        Orgullosamente humilde. 

        (en harmonia)↰ 
Tutti        Este ritmo rebelde. 


M            Es un baile de Cortes 

Tutti          Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, 


The image 
the orange one 
offers of us 
New Yorkers is obscene, 

Got my prima almost embarrassed to say she’s also from Queens. 

But real life 

for real folk 

who really rep Queens 

Ain’t about being greedy, 

petty, ignorant and mean. 


M        Es un baile de Cortes, 

P    Brava defensora de Queens! 


Just when the Bx was wondering, 

Where our groove went, 

This chick makes a switch from bartending 

To leading a movement! 

Out of asthma alley we make city air breath free 

The Bronx is still the birthplace of the revolutionary. 


M         Baile de Cortes, 

Tutti    Nuestra Senora del Bronx! 

        Versito 1, Tutti, (Cantada en hamonia) 
        Esta Bomba que tan rica es, 
        Representa un baile pa’    Representante Cortes, 

        Esa amable, humilde         y brava 



Coro (bass instrumental, Seis corrido double time) 

M    Original de mi Bronx, 

Tutti     y Puertoriquena! 

Versito (Cantada en hamoniaa,Oyó Mula) 

Tutti                Esa chamaca de las nuestras 

        Tan sabia y tan lista 

        Va ensenando a Ortega 

        Como ser socialista 

        No toleramos ningu-    na reconquista 
                (beat drops out) 
        Pero si no quieres ser ra-cista: 

        ‘Stan invitados toditos- 

    M    Al baile de Cortes 

                De Cortez 

        De Cortes 

                De Cortes 

    Tutti    Alexandria Ocasio Cortez! 
        (rep secion) 

(spoken over riff:) 

    Like Emma Goldman said: 
    “If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, 
    I’m not coming!” 
    Pero a lo mejor puede ser: 
        Un baile de Cortez! 

(Bass finishes riff) 

        Ne Cede

        Ne Cede

        Ne Cede Malis.    (Hats, Xs)