Diana Alvarez is an expansive multimedia artist and educator. Her soulful music is bilingual, and she says the intent behind her original songs is to exalt queer love, liberation, and to fiercely sing out against oppression.
Alvarez grew up in South Texas but now calls the Pioneer Valley her home, and Producer Dave Fraser brings us her story.
This story originally aired on October 1, 2021.
Read the full transcription:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Diana Alvarez is an expansive multimedia artist and educator. Her soulful music is bilingual, and she says the intent behind her original songs is to exalt queer love, liberation, and fiercely sing out against oppression.
She grew up in South Texas, but now calls the Pioneer Valley her home, and Producer Dave Fraser brings us her story.
Diana Alvarez, Artist & Educator: For a long time in my life, I knew that I was a singer, I was a vocalist, and a writer. And I knew I wanted to write songs, and eventually I realized — and it was because of, you know, losing family — that I realized I needed to center art in my world, and I needed to do that in a way that felt that my whole self was being part of the practice.
Well, I don’t really identify with the word Hispanic. It is a term of — that was given to us in colonization. And I identify as a Chicana, a Chicanx human, a person of Mexican-American ancestry.
I was just finishing my MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College. I was working on an MFA in Writing, and I came out here with my first queer love and we were looking at this area as a queer haven. And, I was really excited by what I had heard was a vibrant art scene.
I work in multiple mediums as a singer/songwriter, as a poet, composer, filmmaker, and I’m also a scholar and educator. But really, what it means is I sit down and I try to create an experience where I’m connecting to other humans because we have bodies; we’re always trying to connect with our souls, our bodies, our minds, and we’re never really just one thing. So, it’s just my way of being honest about it.
I use that word as as my stage name, Doctora Xingona, one, because I want other people to know that PhD scholars can be — can look like me and can do all the things I do, and can can be artistic, And that we have a right to call ourselves bad asses for everything we do!
I worked with a composer named Pauline Oliveros, who taught me to use a room as an instrument. So, every space we go into is going to have a different reverberation time and different material for our sounds to bounce off of. And so, when I enter any space, I think it’s become more of an intuitive thing to kind of work with the the space — and to listen as I’m singing.
I feel like these very profound life lessons have come from just walking. And it started as a grief practice. When I lost family, I started going out to hike early in the morning and just, you know, trying to connect with the land.
And I think there’s something about the way that our full body is engaged — we’re sweating, our blood is flowing — it really shifts something for me internally and spiritually. You know, when I go for a hike, I, you know, right after often I’ll start writing, I’ll just do a free write.
In 2020, we were playing virtually so much, and I would put so much energy into a video or into a virtual show, and sometimes there would be people in the chat and that was great. But, many times it was like putting all this energy out into — and it would just fall flat.
So, I try to hold on to those moments where people would tell me how much it meant to them, because at the end of the day, we’re — I’m not just creating for myself to listen to myself, I’m really trying to reach other humans.