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RJ Ronquillo | Life lessons from a professional musician

Julianne, in Community news
Aug 13, 2020 | 10 min read

RJ shares some inspiring tips to become a professional musician. He also tells his experience on entering the music industry and why he’s chosen to take a break to focus on creating content on YouTube.

Make Music Better is a series of intimate conversations with professional musicians who know what it takes to master their craft.

Growing up as an 80’s kid, RJ Ronquillo was exposed to a lot of MTV, movies, and radio. Pop culture at an early age channelled his passion to be on stage and perform.

After finishing university with a degree in studio music and jazz, RJ slowly but surely got to performing at small gigs. It was a roller coaster ride of getting random day jobs to finally becoming a professional musician and performing at international arenas with famous artists like Judith Hill and Ricky Martin.

RJ has recently decided to put his touring career on hold which gave him time to make creative YouTube videos promoting different music brands and educating students with technical skills in music. We interviewed RJ on what his day to day looks like.

How long have you been a professional musician, and what do you love about it?

“Music is one of the few things that I’ve never gotten bored of. For this whole time that I’ve been a musician, I always learn new things about the guitar, and it never bores me. It’s always been fascinating to me. When I’m playing with other musicians, and it’s grooving, and it’s right, there’s a spark – when everything clicks; it just feels fantastic.”

“RJ: As far as the music that I love playing, everything almost blues rock n’ roll, country, funk fusion, RnB, flamenco, classical, you name it, I love it all.”

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

The movies that I saw. Back to the Future, Labamba, those are probably one of the single most important things that made me want to play guitar. I’ll admit when I was a kid, I wanted to be famous, and I wanted to be on stage. It was the pop culture at the time of the 80s that pushed me into that direction.

Knowing the challenges of being a professional musician, why did you gravitate towards music as your career?

I think it was just something I knew I could do. Feeling that I have a chance, passionate enough, and I had some talent there. I just wanted to go for it. How was I ever to find out unless I tried, so I just jumped into the pool and hoped for the best.

“RJ: It’s something that can get us out of the real world aHow was I ever to find out unless i tried, so I just jumped into the pool and hoped for the best.

Can you describe what you do?

A typical day for me now has changed a bit, so I used to be a professional touring musician for 18 years. But recently, with the advent of social media and the internet, I’ve chosen to take a break from touring and found a way to be creative by making YouTube videos and teaching through YouTube and Instagram and promoting gear and products.

How do you stay motivated?

If you are always on social media as much as I am on Youtube, there are constantly great musicians out there that are putting out their videos and their content, and everyone is inspiring for me. Seeing the younger generation play fantastic music, being super innovative and creative. This is what pushes me to keep on practicing and being creative myself.

What was one of your proudest moments?

One of my proudest moments was my first big major production tour with Ricky Martin, who is a famous Latin singer, and this was back in 2007. We did a world tour, and this was mostly arena stadiums. I was super excited and happy to do that. My parents saw me playing in an arena in Orlando, and I remember them playing and seeing them in the crowd, and they were smiling and cheering me on. To see them see me made me feel proud as they knew that I could be a successful musician.

“RJ: My parents saw me playing in an arena in Orlando, and they were cheering… To see them see me made me feel proud.”

In your opinion, what is the most important quality a person needs to have to be a successful musician?

Personality. We say in the professional music industry that your talent might get you the gig, but it’s your personality that is going to keep the gig. If you’re on tour, you need to be someone who is a pleasure to be around. It’s essential to have a positive attitude on things. In short talent is a big part of it, but human interaction is necessary. Music is all about playing with other musicians; it’s very much a communal thing.

“RJ: …your talent might get you the gig, but it’s your personality that is going to keep the gig.

What advice would you give to other musicians who are just starting?

Just go for it and don’t pay attention to what other people are doing. Don’t compare yourself to other musicians. Don’t say I’m not good enough. Just do what you do and put all your heart and soul on it. Be passionate about it. Therefore, if you are not passionate about it, then it’s not for you. That goes with any profession; you have to love what you are doing genuinely.

RJ Ronquillo wears the Soundbrenner Core in his interview video. The Soundbrenner Core is a multipurpose watch for musician, check out more features here.

Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to help musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. Click here to find out more about our products.

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