“What if compassion and mercy and justice lived among us? And what if protection and courage and peace were not three, but one?”
It’s passion like this that that sets Michelle Alonso apart from so many songwriters — that and her gift as a composer as well.
Alonso will be at the First Christian Church in Van Alstyne for its Sunday morning service, performing all six of her songs on her newest recording project, The Present.
The church’s pastor, Doug Deuel, invited Alonso to be a part of the morning worship service, after learning of the new 6-song EP, calling her a “talented musician and composer.” Alonso said she played piano at a previous church Deuel pastored, and that they became and have remained good friends.
Alonso is a graduate of the University of North Texas, with her undergraduate work being in classical music composition and the graduate degree is in jazz composition.
“I wrote the songs and composed all the instrumentals to go with it, but got some additional contributions from the musicians on the recording,” Alonso said. “For instance, one song has an accordion solo that I didn’t write, note for note, the musician improvised. I did write the harmonies, the strings, actually note for note on all of the instruments.
“Composition is one thing, songwriting is something else,” she said. “To compose, you learn to write for all the instruments, and you have to know how each instrument works, even though you don’t play them all, and you have to know the limitations of each instrument.”
Alonso, originally from Brazil, said she started trying to earn her degree just out of high school but had to drop out “for a long time. It was during that time out of school that I started composing. I didn’t start writing songs until a bit before I went back to school.”
She considers her two most valuable models/mentors to be: Tom Jobim, a Brazilian jazz composer, pianist, and singer considered to be a primary force behind the bossa nova; and American composer, violinist Joelle Wallach that Alonso studied under but who is now back in New York. She also admires drummer Rich DeRosa, with whom she also studied at UNT. “His main work, too, is composing and jazz arranging.
As a youngster growing up, Alonso said, she struggled a lot with wanting to become a musician. “I wanted to do something that would impact society and help people live a better life. Usually, sometimes, that is in medicine and for a while, that’s what I thought I would be doing with my life. It took me a while to realize music can do that and more.
“I was in my 20s when I had to drop out of school and it was then that I realized how positive writing and composing music can be. I had some wrong ideas about how the process worked. I thought then that a composer would come up with the complete idea, from beginning to end. It was so naïve of me.
“I had ideas, but had never sat down and develop them. Music nowadays has such a power to affect people, and so much of the music we hear today is not directed to an individual’s growth, or show them how to live a better life, or build a better society. Music does have impact on society, whether we realize it or not. From dress to behavior, musicians are influencing people all the time.
“I just want to influence people in a positive way, and that includes spiritual topics, I am a Christian and I cannot separate what I believe from what I write. God’s beauty is in music.”
The First Christian Church’s Sunday morning special worship service, including Michelle Alonso, begins at 10:50 a.m. The church is located at 274 S. Waco Street (SH 5). Alonso said she will be playing piano, singing all six of the songs on The Present, and may use some pre-recorded tracks with some of them.
“As I walk in Your footsteps, I’m no longer afraid. In your arms I’ve discovered scars amended by Grace.” — from “Reminder” by Michelle Alonso