THE BIG QUESTION - Entertainer & Artist, Marty Ruiz / by Bo Gerard

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Here’s the next in my series of blogs profiling some of the great artists and performers I have worked with in the last 40 years. They all get the same 6 questions, and then I ask them “The Big Question”.

This weeks profile is on Singer, Artist, Chef and Bon Vivant - Marty Ruiz. Born and schooled in Houston, Marty’s latest artistic adventure has been performing and singing in senior living communities since 2009.

What were your influences? My first musical influences were the Beatles, Brazilian jazz and show tunes. My parents were aficionados of multiples genres of music.

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What other jobs have you had? Regarding other jobs I have had...In 1970, my first job was selling records in a non-prestigious department store, Britts of Northline Mall. After spending the next several years in retail management with Palais Royal, Saks fifth avenue and the now defunct, Sakowitz, my career was about to shift from one of sales into one of service. This shift changed everything for me. I felt my years of selling was saturated and I sought a career with a deeper purpose. After taking an advanced course in massage therapy, I received his state certification as a licensed therapist. During my 12 years in the massage industry, I developed yet another hobby; creating hand-collaged noted cards. This later evolved into producing large-scale paintings. This newest hobby eventually became my next career. The years spent in service as a massage therapist had now modified my work lexicon to a gentler tone which would help me with my return into the sales market. This would be my first venture to sell something I created by myself. For the following 15 years, I would become a prominent featured artist for several large art festivals throughout the DFW metroplex. As in the past, my next hobby would evolve into my future career. Those days of Bach and Beatles would guide me into a singing career. The early days in musicianship were a challenge, so I decided to volunteer at multiple senior living communities. This act of philanthropy was rewarded when I was eventually asked to begin performing full-time for pay by several activity directors. Today, this is where my career has landed.

3. Do you have any hobbies? My hobbies include gourmet cooking, art appreciation and all forms of music. My hobby is ALSO singing; go figure.

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4. Can you tell me about some of the highlights in your career? The ONE greatest highlight that has been of the greatest benefit to me, professionally and personally, is his time spent with The world-acclaimed organization, “Toastmasters International”. In 2010, I competed against 80 professional speakers from around the globe for the title, ‘World champion of public speaking.’ While I didn’t win or place, my experience of learning how to “read an audience” proved invaluable in my ability to connect with the elderly.

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5. What was the craziest gig you ever did? Craziest gig was performing for the entire alumni of T.I. Imagine singing in a room the size of an airplane hangar surrounded by the showgirls of the senior Follies! What a crazy and surreal program!

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6. What has changed the most in your business in the last 10 years? The ONE thing that’s changed the most in my field is the increase of professionalism. I have assembled some of the better singers and musicians in his industry to create group shows that feature higher production values. This is something that had never been seen before in senior living communities.

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7. “The Big Question” - Having performed for senior groups, I know that sometimes it’s difficult to see that you are making an impact with a particular group. How have you fine-tuned this remarkable ability you have for engaging your audiences. How do I fine tune my ability to engage with audiences? One particular practice that I implement before my musical performances is to walk through the room and introduce himself to his many people as possible. The simple, but impactful action creates an immediate connection and helps an audience feel at ease. They now know that their presenter is on their level and not trying to be above them. Marty’s final thought on this, whenever we are presenting to any group, is to learn what your audience expects or needs. Every audience is different, so do the homework, ask questions and then try something. Keep experimenting until you find what works best for your personal style and watch for your desired responses. There is no wrong approach if you show people you truly care about them. No one in the audience expects perfection, only authenticity.