Becoming: Bruce Zalcer
In Panama City, Bruce grew up listening to traditional Latin music. He fondly remembers time spent with his mother in the car, playing cassette tapes and singing along in between errands. These moments ignited his passion for music. But, the vibrancy of the Latin sound, once novel to him as a child, eventually struck him as disingenuously dominated by overstated and formulaic zest. As his understanding of music, music cultures, and the capabilities for music to express emotion became more sophisticated, he grew disinterested in Panama’s popular scene. That’s when he was introduced by older friends to an entirely different sound.
By age 10, listening to Guns and Roses and Metallica, distorted guitar driven music became his obsession. It also profoundly shaped his ethos. The in-your-face-attitude of Hard Rock catalyzed for Bruce a new awareness that prioritized the pursuit of an authentic self. He started to question societal norms and popular aesthetics. Though this music heralded imaginaries of teen angst and rebellion among popular perceptions of its emerging counterculture, for Bruce, it sparked the impetus to critically analyze society and the status quo, make independent decisions, and develop a mind and musical style of his own.
“Quiet rebellion became a part of my identity as a person and a musician. Yet, I also rejected the aesthetic of rebellion for rebellion’s sake. It has to mean something. You have to stand up for yourself, for a reason, and that reason is quintessentially — beyond any other thing –to be unapologetically who you are meant to be in this moment.”
His musical career started with classical piano lessons as a kid, at his mother’s behest. He begged to quit – and for a guitar – but his mother’s insistence won out. So Bruce continued with his lessons, viewing his profound boredom with classical piano as a challenge he could overcome. He focused his determination on learning the basics of music theory and kept up his campaign to move to the electric guitar instead.
“I remember buying Hit Parader magazine and wanting so badly to be a rockstar myself. Not just a musician, but a ‘rockstar’ – getting up there and being fiercely something unique.”
Worn down, his father took him to a music shop in LA and Bruce took home his first guitar. Then, a few months later, his first bass. When the underground Trance scene started becoming popular in Panama, it started to draw Bruce’s interest and appreciation back to his local dance scene once more and sparked his fascination with the sonic and emotive capabilities of electronic music. Just before college, he bought his first DJ rig.
Bruce started making electronic music. But, after college, the pressure to evolve toward new life commitments took over. Diverting from the ethos of blazing one’s path despite convention, Bruce returned to Panama to dutifully embrace corporate life as an insurance executive at his family’s firm. Music moved to the fringes of his daily life. As he fell further from his passion, disillusionment with the corporate world consumed him in ways that dwarfed his early childhood boredom with classical piano. Like his childhood piano lessons, he viewed this as a challenge he could overcome and settled into life in Panama City.
Bruce met the love of his life, married in 2013 and started a family. Home life opened him up to new dimensions of fulfillment, but something was still profoundly missing. Something that had been present throughout his whole life became the very thing absent from it, and the void it created threatened to destroy all he had sacrificed for. By the time the realization hit, he could see no path for reckoning his adult responsibilities with the musical passions of his youth.
“I looked for many ways to satisfy this intellectual and artistic vacuum, but these were shallow and temporary. By early 2017, I had what you might call a crisis of identity. Something I was thinking and doing had to change.”
So, Bruce went back to the beginning: his love for music. He rediscovered the way music sparked exploration, understanding, and expression of true self. Through his exploration as a fan, Bruce found his way back to himself as a musician.
“When I started exploring what were new genres of music to me, life started to get exciting again. It was sort of the same feeling I had when I was 10 years old and started listening to Guns and Roses. I just made a decision to have an open mind and started a quest for what I needed and not what I or others thought was right for me. I could see the improvisational possibilities in life again.”
That’s also when Bruce realized he wasn’t alone. His struggle is a common one among artists in his generation.
“The limitations of a pre-internet era no longer apply, and yet the perception of constraint can be so deeply ingrained to the point of needless suffering between extreme and innately false imaginaries. In reality, this new world is overwhelmed with endless possibilities wherein a person can choose a unique path and find their own balance. I discovered I could be the dutiful son, worker, husband, father – and a musician.”
Bruce knows other people are going through this transition and wants the music he creates to play a role in that metamorphosis in some way. His music is deeply and inspirational, and comes from a place of experience to genuinely connect with listeners who are confronting change in all its forms, in any stage of their journey.