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How Ivan Resendiz Makes Classical Music a Tool for Justice

Written by on October 8, 2019

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Ivan Resendiz is a classical guitarist and the organizer of the Latin American Guitar Festival in Chicago.

Ivan has participated in numerous national and international guitar competitions, ranking among the first places in more than thirteen competitions in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Austria, Spain, Germany, Italy, Serbia and more. He also collaborates actively with organizations committed to cultural diffusion such as Progressing Latinos, Erie Community Center, Pilsen Artist Community and more. 

In 2011, Iván Resendiz created the 1st Latin American Guitar Festival in Chicago, where concerts, workshops and conferences were offered to the LatinX community living in the United States of America including those at universities such as Columbia College and North Eastern University. The Latin American Guitar Festival is still running under the direction of Iván Resendiz and Rafael Cervantes, fulfilling the commitment to bring classical music to the undocumented migrant community.

Iván Resendiz currently lives in Chicago and identifies as part of the migrant artistic community, he works every day at motivating minority populations to defend their civil rights through art. We chatted with Ivan about how he utilizes the history of classical Latin American music to inspire the immigrant community and fight for social justice…


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Where are you from originally and what drew you to Chicago? Where do you live now? 

I was born in Mexico City, I grew up downtown actually, in the center of that big city. I came to Chicago 13 years ago to grow my personal music skills. I live in McKinley Park, a small area close to Pilsen, which I love. Chicago is one of the biggest cities in the US and a really important music city so that’s why I’m here.

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What has it been like growing up/ living in Chicago? 

Living in Chicago has been a great experience. The music scene here is amazing. I something new about my own music every day, not only classical music but also other styles. Living in Chicago also has been a great experience because of the diversity of cultures. People from all around the world live here. This is a great opportunity to learn about the world itself, the diversity of beliefs in cultures and also the political problems in the world.

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What do you love about Chicago?

It’s a beautiful city. It’s full of lights, it’s a new city, it’s clean. You have the opportunity to be in a seedy environment, which actually reminds me a little bit of Mexico City, but you also you have the opportunity to be in parks, you have the opportunity to be in a quiet neighborhood like mine. Then also you have the nightlife which is amazing. You have everyday chances to go to dance, listen to live music, eat great food at great restaurants. It’s an amazing city.

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Talk about the community and activism work that you do through music…

I perform classical music. I have been studying guitar for around 18 years and have been performing my music professionally at least for 10 years. I play classical music and talk about the history of the composers, who are largely all Latin American composers. I have found that most of them were immigrants, they were trying to be recognized and they were trying to survive. For that reason they often left to live in countries where classical music was more appreciated.

Most of them had to leave everything in order to look for better opportunities. That is the same thing we we did as immigrants here today. I connect the history of this classical music to our reality as immigrants living here in this country. That’s why I organize this Guitar Festival and that is why I focus on getting classical music to the LatinX community.

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How has the city shaped you and your music, your musicianship?

The city has given me amazing knowledge about social justice as part of the culture of Chicago, and I discovered a new world just by living here. I remember the first time I was in a protest for the immigrant rights. It was in 2006 or 2007 and it was amazing feeling connected with the people with my community in pursuit of social justice.

That was amazing. It inspired me to change the way I look at my music and at art in general. We are all connected and I feel complete now, in this stage, being with my community and fighting for something we believe is justice and freedom. We all have the right to be here because we are all the same.

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Listen to the Full Interview Below:

Interview edited for length and clarity by: Seamus Doheny

Audio produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski

Shot by: Paul Araki Elliot