The New Mexico Music Awards put a spotlight on New Mexico musicians, and on May 7, the 36th annual event was held at Sandia Resort & Casino and honored the newest batch of winners. Among the winners was the band “Isaac Aragon & the Healing.”

Aragon might be better remembered for his days as a Rio Rancho High School basketball player and part of the Brian Smith-coached team that won the Class 5A championship game in The Pit. He was a member of the RRHS Class of 2008; older brother Santos graduated RRHS in 2005 and is an Albuquerque firefighter.

Lately, music has been Aragon’s “thing,” and it’s working out pretty well.

The 32nd season of Music Under the Stars has his band performing on June 10 at the Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater. Last summer, the band had the honor of opening for the nationally known band, The Mavericks, at Sandia Resort & Casino.

Aragon was initially raised in Peñasco in northern New Mexico, where his father was the boys basketball coach. The family later moved to Rio Rancho, with his dad getting a job as an assistant principal at Rio Rancho High School, where the “roots” of the Healing may have taken place.

 

“My parents (Rudy and Tina Aragon) raised me in an incredibly loving and nurturing environment that prioritized education and also fostered creativity and expression; they curated a household rich in art and culture, and though they were both musicians, understood the importance of allowing me to discover my passion on my own, without a forceful hand,” Aragon said. “They’re still my biggest fans and supporters to this day. My wife, Erin, has supported my endeavors every step of the way and constantly encourages me to continue to pursue my dreams. My children are my constant inspiration; every song I write is a memoir to them and an effort to encourage and inspire a world that I dream for them.”

Isaac Aragon & the Healing is described as playing original rhythm and blues, plus funk and soul, with a socially conscious bent.

Aragon says the band’s music is soul music.

“It’s been called many things over the decades: Motown, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, R & B, Neo Soul,” he said, “and now they’re calling some of the revival acts Vintage or Classic Soul.

“The common thread is a feel-good groove seeped in sincerity and truth — soul. As a singer-songwriter who draws most of my inspiration from the pioneers of this musical genre, I most closely relate to this tradition,” he explained. “With the style and sonic profile of my music not committing to any one particular period of its history, and with a constant intention set on innovation and creating something new and fresh, I try to avoid any sort of sub-genre categorization and simply call my music Soul Music.”

Basketball and music have always been parts of his life.

“My father played guitar for as long as I can remember and always had classical guitars around our home growing up. He popped one in my hand and taught me a few blues songs when I was maybe 8 years old or so,” Aragon recalled. “I don’t remember being particularly interested, committed, nor gifted in any way.

“I didn’t pick it back up until my senior year of high school at RRHS, when I enrolled in an Intro Guitar class with teacher Jim Rivera. It’s safe to say that Mr. Rivera changed the course of my life forever,” Aragon said. “He was incredibly passionate about music — and good music at that! His main concern was that we, as students, discovered some form of music that we could similarly be passionate about, and bring it into the classroom to learn. … I was exposed to music from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Kansas, Pink Floyd — you name it.”

It was a new dawn for Aragon, who never thought much of those legendary groups till he was in Rivera’s classroom.

“I was aware of this music before, but had thought it somewhat lame, as it was what ‘old folks’ listened to. However, diving deep into the songs helped me discover a world of expression I’d never taken the time to notice,” he said. “I think I took a second semester and was off on my own from that point on, with no more formal lessons or training.”

Rivera easily recalled Aragon, even though 15 years have passed.

“He was an amazing student, musician and human being,” Rivera said. “We would play the classics and each day his playing would improve.  … Working with students like Isaac make my job so enjoyable!”

After graduation, Aragon packed his guitar and headed to New York to play basketball, but strumming worked out better than dribbling.

Smith was still in the back of his mind: “(He) taught me that good things happen for those who are adequately prepared. I’ve carried this lesson with me in all walks of life, especially when preparing for studio sessions or live performances with my band,” he said.

“Music became something new for me: a refuge. It was in my most trying times that I discovered the therapeutic properties of music, as a listener and a player/creator,” he said, realizing he needed to improve his voice, and initially it was through soul music.

“I became obsessed with the music of greats singers and songwriters like Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield — the list goes on and on,” he said. “I discovered that a lot of their music was literally composed of different notes/formations than what I was accustomed to. The complexity of the new chords I learned to play their music, brought out a completely different quality and spirit in my voice, and set a different musical bed for my vocals to lay upon. I felt like I was home.

“From that moment on, I at least knew that music would be part of my life. As I progressed and developed, I began writing my own songs and performing whenever and wherever I could,” he said, firmly entrenched in his new love. “Things have continued to grow from there, and it’s become increasingly clear that this musical path is a large part of my purpose in this world.”

Despite the accolades, and keeping in mind his life as a PT, Aragon says, “I still haven’t felt that I’ve ‘arrived.’

“My concrete goal is to be able to be fully support my family as a singer and songwriter. I’m not quite there yet, though I’m fortunate to have a day job as a physical therapist that I’m also incredibly passionate about. I’m getting closer and closer to being a full-time musician, but I’ll know I’ve made it when I can focus more time and energy on creating and performing.”

Aragon has done a lot of traveling, thanks to his music.

“I toured extensively across New York; I’ve done large festivals in Colorado (Telluride Blues and Brews Festival), California, all across New Mexico, Hawaii and South Korea.”

Much more remains to be done.

“I’ve still yet to release my debut full-length album,” he said. “The recording process is complete, but the post production has taken a bit of time. I’ve released several singles from the project (‘We The People,’ ‘Who’s Standing With Me,’ and ‘Brown’) and plan to release a few more before ultimately putting out the entire album, including pressing vinyl records; that’s a huge part of my dream.”

But, wait – there’s more: “Then moving on to the next project, and sharing my music with people across the world. Sustaining a small tour across the U.S. and Europe would be next on the list. All steps towards working as a full-time singer and songwriter, which is my ultimate goal.”

Rounding out the Healing are Artha Meadors (bass); Dee Brown (organ, keyboard and vocals); Paul Palmer (drums and vocals), who was on that Rams’ basketball team; T.J. Emerick (guitar and vocals) and Robert Muller (keyboard). (isaacaragon.bandzoogle.com)