The cover photo of drummer Antonio Sanchez’s new CD Lines In The Sand, which dropped in January, should be familiar to most San Diegans. It depicts the U.S. border wall at Imperial Beach as it slowly settles into the Pacific Ocean.
That picture and the album title are emblematic, according to Athenaeum jazz program coordinator Daniel Atkinson, who is bringing Sanchez and his band Migration to The Scripps Research Institute on March 16.
“Antonio came to the U.S. to study music in 1993. After obtaining several degrees, he stayed on, primarily because he was hired by Pat Metheny to be his drummer. Eventually he applied for and obtained U.S. citizenship but he had to deal with some pretty demeaning circumstances along the way,” says Atkinson.
Atkinson discovered some of Sanchez’s backstory during a trip to the Big Apple.
“I saw Antonio doing a panel discussion in NYC about his experiences as a Mexican immigrant navigating these times, and I find it both inspiring and very relevant to our community in San Diego — especially with the current hysteria from the White House about the ‘caravans,’ so when the opportunity to bring the Migration project to San Diego came up, I jumped at it.”
Sanchez became a naturalized citizen in 2016, and in addition to his long tenure with jazz guitar icon Pat Metheny, you might recognize his name from the 2014 movie Birdman, for which Sanchez penned the soundtrack, which earned him a Grammy Award.
“A lot of people know him now because of the Birdman soundtrack who might not have been aware otherwise,” says Atkinson. “That and his career with Pat Metheny have raised his profile considerably. He was actually on TV last week, on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, backing up James Taylor. He’s really developed a significant career, which is why we keep asking him back.”
“I feel so blessed and so thankful for what I’ve achieved in the United States,” says Sanchez on his website. “But at the same time, I feel completely repulsed by what the United States is doing to immigrants — especially to people coming from the South. So whenever and wherever I’m performing, I’m speaking out, trying to make sense of what’s going on… small immigrant children being scarred for life by these inhumane policies keep reminding me of the millions of people that aren’t as fortunate as I have been and whose journey to come to this country sometimes becomes a matter of sheer life or death.