When Jaime Lozano performs at Lincoln Center on April 15, it will be one of the high points of his theater career. It will also be the next benchmark on his incredible journey, having gone from learning the English language to leading a show at one of America’s great concert venues. Fittingly, Songs by an Immigrant is all about the experience of moving to a new country and bringing your story with you.
Ahead of the Lincoln Center perfomance, I caught up with Jaime to talk not only about the event but everything leading up to it. If you can’t make it to New York, you can also listen to the album here. Get to know one of the incredible artists helping to continue the diversity of the musical theater world through our interview.
Brittany Frederick: Lincoln Center has welcomed incredible artists over the years, including Sutton Foster and Jonathan Groff, to name but two. What does it mean to you to play this particular venue?
Jaime Lozano: It’s such an honor because in these American Songbook concerts, I had the chance to see Audra McDonald, Jason Robert Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda with his Hamilton concert. Now knowing that my name is beside those names that have performed there before is for me is such an honor.
I also feel such a huge responsibility because I think I’m one of the few Mexican musical theater composers performing in that room as part of that concert series. So it’s such an honor and a big responsibility to be able to tell my stories and share them with New York City and share them with Lincoln Center…It’s just a big privilege to be considered by Lincoln Center to be part of their family.
Brittany Frederick: As your career has developed, was this ever a goal that you set for yourself or ever even considered would happen? Or did this opportunity come as a surprise to you?
Jaime Lozano: I never dreamed about that. I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. When I came to New York the first time in 2007, I didn’t speak any English at all. I came here because I got a full tuition scholarship to do a musical theater Masters program at NYU, speaking no English. I don’t know why they picked me. (laughs) I learned English being here in New York City. So now being in that room, among these amazing names, knowing that I didn’t speak English a few years ago, it’s like “Wow.” It’s unbelievable for me, but I’m just trying to do my best, to tell my stories.
Brittany Frederick: That’s the important part. It’s not just that you get to play Lincoln Center, but Songs by an Immigrant is very personal to you. You’re being invited to tell your individual truth on that stage. What does that mean to you, and how do you even approach a show like this when it’s something close to your heart?
Jaime Lozano: The most important thing when you’re telling the stories is being honest. Everything needs to come from honesty and from your heart. You want people to listen to those songs and you want people to be affected by those songs. If I can touch and move only one person, I’m okay with that. Just having the chance to get to more people as you are doing what you love, it’s a privilege and a responsibility. Because you write a song and you don’t know where that song is going to get. You never know if you’re going to save a life, if you’re going to change a life, or if someone is going to hate you because they hate that song. You never know what your song is going to provoke in someone else.
I’m trying to be honest with what I’m doing, [but] I don’t know what’s going to happen on the other side. I’m hoping that people are going to relate with that. Of course, playing in a room like that and playing for big outings is always going to add something different. It’s going to add another layer, but if you’re being honest and you’re being yourself, you’re not trying to tell something that you don’t believe. I think that’s the trick that allows you to perform in the smallest room or the biggest room, just being yourself.
Brittany Frederick: Have there been other artists who inspired or informed you? What are the influences that got you to where you are today?
Jaime Lozano: There’s many, many, many people. I could say that I find inspiration everywhere; I think we can be inspired by anyone. There’s a lot of stories out there. But if we’re speaking about artists, as a Latinx artist, writer, storyteller, definitely there’s these huge names that have been creating a path and opening doors for many of us, like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, Sergio Trujillo. Some of them I have the privilege to know and have collaborated in some way with. Others I don’t know, but just knowing their journey is a daily inspiration because we’re just trying to follow that path, hoping that we are one of many more to come.
When I came to study to New York City, I was the first Mexican accepted [to] and graduated from that program. Unfortunately, right now there’s not too many Mexicans writing musical theater. That is not something that I am proud to say. I would love to have more people like myself telling more stories and finding more diversity, because we are all so unique. I think that we need to find all those stories all those writers that are out there. But sometimes they don’t see themselves.
For example, I saw In The Heights back in 2007; it was off-Broadway at the time. I went to see the show because I saw a flyer on the street. When I picked it up, there was a guy that looked like my brother. That guy was Lin-Manuel Miranda. That was the only reason I went to see the show because ‘Oh, this guy looks like my brother. Let’s see what this is about.” When I was in the theater and started listening to the music and people singing and speaking in Spanish or Spanglish and listening to these Latin rhythms and sounds, I thought “Oh, what I want to do is possible. There’s people doing that.”
That was a validation for me that it was okay to tell our stories. I found in this piece and this guy a reason to keep fighting to tell our stories. So I think sometimes people don’t have the opportunity to see that. They don’t have someone that they can relate with. I’m very blessed I found that. That’s why I’m doing this.
Brittany Frederick: What are you hoping people take away from your work? Whether it’s this concert at Lincoln Center or you have other projects going as well, is there a specific message that you’re hoping to impart?
Jaime Lozano: This Lincoln Center concert is called Songs by an Immigrant. It’s a collection of songs that I collaborated onwith many, many artists from musical theater, from Broadway to the jazz world, to the Latin world. We have people like Mandy Gonzalez, who is in Hamilton right now. Alex Lacamoire plays the piano on one of the songs. We have a jazz singer like Raul Midon, who has been Grammy-nominated twice. We have many, many people from different genres. All these songs are about the immigrant experience.
We put together an album that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the liner notes for. Right now, we are working on a second volume of that album, so the concert is going to include songs from both albums…I’m [also] working on different musicals and projects that are in some way related to this immigrant journey. I believe that is my mission as a storyteller, try to tell those stories. Some people ask me, you’re a writer. Can you write about something else that is not immigrant or or Latinx? Of course I can write something like Dear Evan Hansen or Phantom of the Opera or whatever, but I don’t think that is my mission right now. Maybe in five, six years, I’m going to write different stories. But right now I think that I need to focus on telling these kind of stories.
I’m working on a project with my wife, who is an amazing singer, writer, and actress. We’re doing a project called Broadway, and it’s Broadway songs with Latin-American arrangements. We’re just trying to put who we are in everything that we do. This is our culture, our music, and telling these immigrant stories—that’s what we are trying to do.
Jaime Lozano performs at Lincoln Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. The album Songs By an Immigrant is also available on Apple Music and streaming services.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.