Twenty minutes. It's not a very long time, when you think about it. And, in most instances, 20 minutes here and there are fairly inconsequential, except for those life-changing moments that stare us in the face every once in a while.
Anthony Diaz of Crookston is potentially staring down one of those moments later this week, when he performs as the opening act for the Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon and Styx concert at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks Thursday evening.
"He has 20 minutes and that's it," his sister, Carrie Diaz, told the Times. "So he'll try to squeeze a few of his best songs into that time. He writes all of his own music. Acoustic guitar, electric guitar...he does it all."
Diaz, 30, is a Crookston High School and University of Minnesota, Crookston graduate. He entered a contest to be the opening act Thursday, sponsored bb the rock and classic rock radio station KJ 108 in Grand Forks. Carrie Diaz said auditions were held over a couple months and judges whittled the group down to approximately 15 finalists. Eventually, her brother, who for years has "gone around to local places to play," such as open mic events at Crooks Club in Crookston, won the whole thing, and his prize is his 20 minute opening slot before Nugent takes the stage Thursday at REA.
"It's his hobby, but he loves it more than a hobby," Carrie Diaz said. "He's played Grand Forks, Fertile...he does weddings. He goes around the area with bands. He's just trying to get his name out there."
Carrie Diaz alerted the Times to her brother's big night, and the Times subsequently contacted Anthony to get his thoughts on his big gig. In response, he sent the following story, which appears unedited:
"Music entered my life when I was six years old and sitting in church on a church pew. A traveling family of musicians had just played and I was amazed by how each family member (children as young as 6 & 7) could play at least two instruments and all could sing. After the family finished performing, the church song leader said “Ok congregation it’s our turn to show them what we can do.” I darted toward the stage with my eye on the guitar, but my mother grabbed my ear with the most loving of jerks and informed me that we would be singing, not playing instruments. I knew at that very moment what I was put on this earth to do and what I wanted more than anything.
Page 2 of 3 - "I think I was 8 or 9 when my Dad finally gave in to my begging. He marched me down to the pawn shop and before I knew it I was making loud noises, causing my family to be steps away from insanity. At 14, my father challenged me to practice an hour a day for a year with the promise of a new acoustic guitar of my choice. A year later, I was the proud owner of a Gibson J-100 Extra witch made me the envy off all my grungy Crookston artistic friends. If I had a dollar for every Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins song played on that guitar, I could solve our nation’s debt problem.
"At the age of 19 my musical taste started to evolve, thanks to a UMC Natural Resources student from Peoria, Illinois. He introduced me to music that you will not find on the radio; noncommercial music written by artists who performed because they loved music. At the age of 19 or 20 I heard an album by the band Phish called “rift”. I listened to it from beginning to end on repeat. It could be considered a turning point in my life because the music took me to place outside of reality and into the world of creativity and skill of sound creation, and improvisational space, where words lose their traditional definitions, and where artists create musical dialogue across many genres. It helped me realize that performing music is something I needed to do. Once I started performing, I realized that no matter what I do or where I go or how hard I try to fight it, performing music is the one thing on this planet that brings me complete and utter joy.
"For the last ten years, I have done many things; I have walked down many different paths. I got a BS from UMC, I’ve run many marathons, worked in labs and factories, but in the end I have found that playing & performing music makes me happiest. Whether I am poor, rich, famous, homeless, or deemed a social outcast doesn’t matter, because as long as I have my music, I am set.
"I currently play as much as possible at various open mic events in the Crookston (Sunday night @ Crook’s), Grand Forks (Wednesday nights @ The El Roco & Tuesday nights @ The Hub), Fosston (Wednesday nights @ The VFW), and Fertile (Olivers Bar & Grille). My love for music does not stop at performing. I also build box drums called Cajons and restore vintage guitar amplifiers in my spare time.
"When I was a kid, it was the local musicians (Cody McMenomy and Dan Lucko especially) around town who I looked up to and was inspired by. The same is true today. There are some amazing musicians here, like Lil Bobby from Lil Bobby and The Storm. He comes down to open mic night at Crooks on Sundays and plays for free. Lil Bobby was inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame and he plays for free in Crookston. There are so many musicians hiding out in this town; many of them with amazing talents (like Max Wolpert & Daniel Knight) and plenty of others who show up to jam session after jam session and deserve recognition as well.
Page 3 of 3 - "If anything can be gained from me winning this competition and having the opportunity to play in front of the biggest crowd of I’ve ever played for, I’d hope for folks in the area to realize that if you’re a kid from Crookston who loves music and if you work hard enough, you could perform in front of 10,000 people. I hope to inspire some community support for live music and local musicians. I hope to introduce other kinds of music to the community and promote the many different varieties of music our community has to offer, such as listening and supporting The River Side Blues Show with Kevin Hendricks (every Sunday from 10am-1pm on 96.1 The Fox). This guy has dedicated his life to expanding the appreciation of a true American music. I don’t know what I’d do on Sundays without it.
"Lastly, I must admit I am a bit nervous about playing this show but I am practicing, talking about, and constantly listening to music as much as I can. All I can do is trust my music, play my heart out and hope others will enjoy listening to it as much I will enjoy playing it. But If I get too nervous, I’ll just close my eyes and pretend like I’m in my room playing for my dog, Woody."
Here is a link to Diaz’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/0105diaz/videos?flow=grid&view=0