If creativity were snow flakes, Ryne Santos would be the guy steadily rolling his snowball down the hill. This past Saturday, he hosted an official Peckha Kucha event at the GIC to promote that appreciation for creativity within the community. What the hell is a Pecha Kucha you ask? Pecha Kucha is a simple presentation format where individuals show 20 different images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically as the presenter speaks freely about them. Presenters may choose any topic imaginable that interests them, and there is a mandatory beer break.
According to the official website, Pecha Kucha got its start by a group of architects during February 2013 in Tokyo. They aimed to promote a format for presenters to gush over their latest creations, but at the same time, keep it snappy. Since their inception, these events have sprawled to over 900 cities around the world. Ryne Santos is the official Pecha Kucha city organizer here in Gwangju. I got a chance to catch up with him recently to not only delve into his role with Pecha Kucha, but to also connect the dots of his musical timeline.
As someone who can casually pick up almost any instrument lying around the room and competently play a variety of styles, Santos tells the humble beginnings of his musical start. “The music teacher came into my fifth grade classroom and he was like, ‘Hey if there’s anybody that’s interested in joining band, get on up and follow me to the band room,’ I had no interest in doing it, but there was a girl I had a crush on that stood up. So I was like, ‘Well, I’m joining band now.'” Santos found himself at the saxophone, which he would later use to earn himself a Bachelors of Arts in music as a certified educator. During high school, he picked up the guitar by teaching himself punk and ska songs. After taking four semesters of music pedagogy classes during his university years, this creative snowball has propelled itself forward into a series of new opportunities.
A California native, Ryne, initially traveled to China at the whim of a friend to try his hand at teaching English to elementary kids in 2013. The success of the experience landed him here in Gwangju during 2014 with a new gig as a music education teacher at a public school for grades K-12. He is the only music teacher at the school, and consequently, has full control of the curriculum. His passion for the creative output of his students resulted in an hour and a half concert recently that culminated in his students going beyond the innocent status quo of classical cliches and ‘Baby Beluga’ lullabies to include the more relevant fanfare of Gorillaz’s ’19-2000′ and ‘Dirty Harry.’ Even during the midst of such ventures, Santos keeps an ambitious and adventurous eye set for his students to (hopefully) perform a symphonic flash mob in downtown Gwangju at some point during the near future.
Beyond his dedication to cultivate the eager musicians of tomorrow, Santos has used his full free time to go out and complete the missing parts of several productions and acts around town. This first started when he ran sound for the Gwangju Performance Project’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This helped to open his world to the showcase of performers here and led to his contributions for the pit orchestra of Little Shop of Horrors. During these times, he also provided guitar for local band, Malarkey, and eventually found himself thumping bass in the new up-and-coming group, CCTV.
With his footing confidently set in a ballroom of musical endeavors, Santos effortlessly continues to pursue whatever energies enter his life. His first Pecha Kucha was in 2013 in his native city of Fresno, California. He was admittedly coerced into the event by a friend, and took an open shot at the opportunity to spill the beans on his affinity for crossword puzzles, which not only went over well, but he admits, “It changed my life.” New friends, new creators, and new stories of life were all there to bring six to seven minute showers of perspective. He began the official Pecha Kucha of Gwangju in 2015, which is only one of four cities in Korea to officially host (Seoul, Daegu, and Daejon are the other three.)
Santos is happy and grateful for each of his creative experiences here, but is certainly not one to set limits. When I ask him about any future goals, he expresses the desire to record and/or produce recordings for others. He speaks of his interest in film and cinematography, and ultimately of a yearning to get together with other creative and like-minded people. Whether or not you happen to catch him performing around town playing one of his many instruments, I implore you to explore the next gathering for a Gwangju Pecha Kucha.
More information about Pecha Kucha can be found at: http://www.pechakucha.org
All photographs are courtesy of Ryne Santos.