We had the good fortune of connecting with Robert & Cindy Leger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robert & Cindy, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Playing music makes us happy. We’ve been married a long time, yet when we play music together we always find something new about ourselves. What makes us happier still is seeing how people react to our music. Instrumental music has an ability to say things that are beyond words. It touches the heart, and we see this when we play a special song for a couple. They glow, maybe a tear flows, they snuggle next to each other. We smile. We smile when a woman at a Mother’s Day Luncheon writes, “You guys are awesome” on a sticky note and hands it to us — and we keep the sticky note. We smile when someone walks by and says, with obvious enjoyment, “I’ve never heard the Beatles played quite like that.” It’s why we play.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
We started playing together not long after getting married, mostly for a friend’s wedding or a relative’s funeral. Cindy also continued to play in orchestras. Ocotillo wasn’t born until our youngest graduated from high school and we found ourselves with free time. We work constantly at improving our playing, and did several virtual house concerts through this summer so we could keep our technique up. We also saw a need to spread a little joy in a dark time. We’ve had a lot of requests, especially for weddings, and our repertoire has grown tremendously in the past decade. We cover a lot of ground: classical, Great American Songbook, Broadway and movie themes, folk songs and pop from the 1950s to today. Most of our arrangements are our own, and we like to let our instruments toss the melody back and forth, as if they’re having a conversation. We’ve also written a number of original pieces, including two commissioned works. Our most recent was one we wrote for our sons, called “Brothers.” You can see it at youtube.com/ocotillomusic. In addition to playing in Arizona, we’ve recorded an album and organized two tours in the Midwest and Southwest. It was on one of those stops that a music blogger described our music as “like therapy you didn’t know you needed.”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that our first stop is the Musical Instrument Museum. Such a treasure, and you don’t have to know much about music to enjoy it. Maybe our friends will time their visit such that we can tour the museum in the morning and enjoy a MusicaNova Orchestra concert in the MIM theater in the afternoon. Our friends only visit in fall, winter or early spring, so most of the visit will be outdoors. The Desert Botanical Garden, another place we enjoy playing, will be on the itinerary. We could go next door to the Papago Buttes, but we might skip that and hike into the trust land not far from our home. It’s a lot less crowded. We’d include a stop at Scottsdale’s Civic Park for the LOVE statue, and stick our heads into a few of the gift shops in Old Town and the art galleries on the other side of Scottsdale Road. We’d shoot up to Sedona for another hike, stopping at Arcosanti on our way north and the Rock Springs Café for a slice of pie on the way back. Robert, as a native New Mexican, will insist on going to (or getting take out from) Richardson’s, Blue Adobe, Carlsbad Tavern or Frank and Lupe’s.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Our parents, of course. They set us up with lessons when we were young and came to our performances (both in our separate childhoods and in our life together as Ocotillo). Robert’s mother gave us valuable feedback that Robert still hears – and acts on – when we play certain songs. Cindy also credits three teachers – Sam Minasian, Walter Hawkey and Elaine Dobbs – for inspiring and supporting her and helping her to develop her talent.
Angela Hetherington, Liz McKinnon