This true-life story is a repost from our sister site, Our Life Logs®
The Chords Always Do
| This is the 595th story of Our Life Logs® |
This is the story of Rudy "Kenzy" Lafrance as captured by the team at Our Life Logs. The following is brought to you in partnership with Guitars Over Guns, and organization that aims to change the lives of disadvantaged students through music and strong, consistent mentorship. We hope you check them out!
To live is to know what makes you wait for the morning.
1 | Growing Up
I was born in 1998 in Miami, Florida, to parents that immigrated from Haiti (like most families around us). Our family, like many others, was run on Haitian values. For starters, you have only three options of where to go: church, school, or home. If you were anywhere else, it was because you were on your way to church, school, or home. That was that. The strictness of the traditions and expectations had a way of whipping me and my siblings into shape. I didn’t really think much of it.
One thing I remember is the guitar on the wall of our home. How it got in there, I don’t know. I never really touched it, and now I don’t know why. We did have music; however, it was Haitian music called kompa, that blared from the family van as I was dropped off at school. Man, I really hated that at the time. Other than that, I snuck in a little hip-hop, R&B, and rap when I could. Just to balance it all out.
2 | My First Teacher
In the second grade (yeah, we’re going all the way back), I had a violin class on my schedule and didn’t know what to think of it. I don’t know if any seven-year-old would. Well, I only got to take it once before my little hands fumbled with the bow and I was kicked out. For a while, that stuck with me. I was the kid who couldn’t do music.
For years, I didn’t try again. I didn’t have the confidence to think I could do more than what the teacher said.
In sixth grade, I thought about the guitar at home, and when a guitar class was put on my school schedule, I decided to go—even if my expectations were not high. I figured I’d suck honestly, but at least I’d satisfy that curiosity. But it was the opposite. From the moment that I held a guitar in my hands, it felt right. Not only that, but I was interested. And when you get interested in something, it’s kinda magic.
I think my skills wouldn’t have gone anywhere if not for my guitar teacher Jono. From the day he taught me the basic chords, I was hooked, and I picked it up really well. My thirst to learn everything there was to know about the guitar grew. I started coming home and picking up the guitar to keep practicing. Every free moment was devoted to plucking the strings of my guitar.
During the summer, I started watching YouTube guitar tutorials to learn more about things like finger picking, strumming, and how to play songs. I’ll never forget the day I came across a video of a guy who was hitting his wrist upon the body of the guitar. At first, I thought, What are you doing? You’re gonna break it. But then I realized that the sound he was producing was adding percussion to the song. I thought it was really cool, so I started trying to replicate it on my own guitar. As I started to nail it, I branched out to different techniques I’d seen online. I started snapping my thumb along the strings to create a snare-like sound. It was cool. And each small discovery led me to find another. You can’t not get hooked.
That was when I started making my own arrangements of cover songs, adding a percussive edge to them. Meanwhile, back in guitar class at school in the 7th grade, my teacher Jono told me about an after-school program called Guitars Over Guns (GOGO). It took place in his classroom and kids could get lessons from mentors in the community. I thought it was really cool, so I decided to join.
Each time, I’d leave the program waiting until the minute I got to return again. I felt like I was getting better just by being around the people in the program. There was always a piano in the room, so I’d go over and start noodling on it, and became interested in the piano. I started asking Jono if I could sign out a keyboard or guitar to take home to keep practicing. The guitar at home was fine, but it wasn’t anything like the Yamaha from school. The same feel just wasn’t there. I loved the school’s guitar so much, I even begged Jono to let me hang onto it the whole summer. He probably wasn’t allowed to do that, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but he let me take the guitar anyway.
3 | Maybe I Can Do This Forever
As I was growing into a teenager, my music skills were maturing just as fast. Maybe even faster. My arrangements were getting better every day. So well, in fact, that Jono encouraged me to play solo for the Guitars Over Guns spring show. I agreed and got to work coming up with an arrangement that I thought my peers would vibe with. I went on stage that day with sweaty palms and a pit in my stomach, but as soon as I started the arrangement, everything else fell away. It was just me and my music. When I finished, thunderous applause clapped from every part of the auditorium. My eyes widened as I saw the awed and approving faces of my peers. They loved my performance. Wow. They really liked it. It was that day, for the first time, I had the thought, Maybe I could do this for a career.
My high school didn’t have any guitar programs and they didn’t have an after-school GOGO program either, so all I could do was practice on my own. Still, I didn’t want to lose that connection to GOGO so I became a peer mentor in 2014. Mentoring other students was my way to stay involved with the program and music.
It was like this for most of high school--practicing on my own and mentoring. But then my senior year, I decided on a whim to sign up for the talent show taking place during the senior breakfast. I’d never been the kid to show off, but I thought it’d be a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, to see if I really could perform as a career.
No one in my high school had ever heard me play. Like at the spring show in middle school, I wanted my peers to like my music. I performed a medley of R&B and hip-hop hits with my own arrangements, songs that lots of kids would recognize. As soon as I launched into the first song, I could hear students in the crowd singing along with me, and I felt a rush of adrenaline. It just felt right. Having people root for me, to support me felt amazing. It’s so different from playing alone in your bedroom. That day solidified my dream to pursue a career in music.
Me with my guitar, 2017.
4 | If Not For GOGO
Towards the end of high school, I was able to do some gigging, both paid and unpaid. I took whatever was offered (usually by word-of-mouth) and what I could find in order to gain some momentum with music. I started as a one-man band and played at restaurants and I even got a weekly gig at a hotel. As I said, playing in your bedroom is one thing; soloing is another. It was an entirely different experience to play with a band. Which came next. It’s something all serious musicians just need to do. Even if just for the challenge.
After graduating, I ultimately settled into higher education. So, in 2023, I’ll have a degree in Commercial Music Technology. I’ll be able to produce and record music, know how to audio engineer for artists, and I’ll have the tools to help run a studio.
If not for Guitars Over Guns, I don’t think music would have ever found me. I don’t think I would have found music. At least, not in the way I have now. I would have stared at that old guitar on the wall of my childhood home and eventually quit looking that way. And even growing up in North Miami, I could have been pulled into some really bad groups. That’s the way it is when you aren’t given tools or support to really hone the interests you just begin to have at that age. But I was thrown into that world through GOGO, wasn’t I? I’ve had some of my greatest moments through the organization.
I haven’t really gotten into that. Well, I’ll back up. In 2014, Jencarlos Canela was performing for the Choose Your Sound event for GOGO and he used my arrangements, which was such a cool experience for me as a young artist. After that, Jencarlos reached out to me to ask if I could play as the opening act for his upcoming show in Miami Beach. It was such a cool crowd. And it was even better because my family got to see me perform. I got to play the national anthem for the Miami Marlins in 2015 and played at the Heat stadium in 2021. In 2018, I traveled with GOGO to LA for the first time to play a set for a partnering nonprofit. These events were only possible because of Chad Bernstein and GOGO, of course.
5 | I Found Mine
With music, I can communicate what I’m feeling with the world. I think I longed for that as a really young kid. Because the truth of it is, words may not always come to me, but the chords do. So, without the notes and strings, I feel those thoughts and emotions are trapped. Really. By creating arrangements, I can take the influence of my past (yes, even the kompa music that I used to hate) and meld it to my present. I can give something to the world. I can answer questions that I couldn’t answer before. Maybe that’s the true mark of having something you are so passionate about--when something you love is necessary for you to live well. I found mine very early. You will find yours too.
This is the story of Rudy "Kenzy" Lafrance
Rudy is a musician who has always been surrounded by the joys of music. After finding his passion with playing music, he began to pursue it by joining programs and playing shows. Rudy’s artist name is Kenzy because his full name is Rody Kenzy Lafrance, and he wanted to embrace the middle name that he once hated as a kid. Today he finds it unique and a connection to his heritage. His favorite color is red because he loved the Red Power Ranger as a kid. In his free time, he likes to work out, play basketball, or edit videos. Rudy believes that there is a purpose for everyone. What you’re longing for will eventually come to you.
This story first touched our hearts on May 24, 2021.
Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker