We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Camacho and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Laura, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My relationship with risk taking has always been of acceptance.  The fact is that it came with the territory every time I had to follow my own career path.  I didn’t want the risk, but it has always been the pesky little brother of the type of growth I seem to need. A large part of me continues to crave stability and security, and in the past, I postponed changes several times due to fear. Looking back though, it always felt as if I almost had no choice but to move forward when it came to the important things. The need to change/grow/give was always too strong to ignore, and if I ever had one certainty in life, it was that I would not forgive myself for not investigating the possibilities ahead. That meant starting on my instrument, the double bass, at 19 from scratch while working. I didn’t even own one, so I had to practice at the conservatory before going to work. It was the first time in my life that I was able to focus on something for a couple of hours straight, and with joy! A year later, I got a cheap double bass from a retired tango bassist.  I then juggled ensembles, jobs, classes, getting up at 5 AM to practice before taking two subway lines to go to my job, but I was loving every minute with the instrument in my hands. I had several people approach me on the subway when they saw me carrying an instrument larger than me. A few of them would talk to me about how much they loved music and how they wished they had pursued it, which always stayed with me. My first instructor, Ricardo Calvo, was extremely musical as well as supportive. After four years, I started taking private lessons with another respected instructor, Carlos Vega, who kept telling me I was doing well but I should practice longer hours daily. I was making progress but it was a bit slow and often disheartening. I received scholarships from youth orchestras, and continued playing chamber music, tango, and baroque music. At 29 I said “it’s now or never” and I left my job to give it my all: I practiced 8 hours a day and continued to play in orchestras, tango groups, and contemporary ensembles. I was always broke and/or busy, but I knew I was making progress that would eventually pay off.  One day I attended a master class with Dr. Milton Masciadri, the University of Georgia double bass professor, and it truly felt like the mothership had arrived. He was incredibly effective  in quickly helping me improve helping aspects of my playing I knew needed work. Then I heard him perform virtuoso repertoire just the way I had dreamed the perfect, most beautiful version should be. Fortunately, he was impressed enough to offer me a scholarship to study with him. I didn’t care where the school was as long as I was learning. Around this time, I finally got a professional job I had wanted for years: double bass instructor at the Buenos Aires Youth Orchestras, which I enjoyed until I left my home country to start the whole cycle over again in the USA. It was difficult and for an immigrant on a student visa finding employment was very limited with restrictions on hours and a requirement to work within the University system. I was a 31-year-old foreign student surrounded by 20-year-olds and working at the cafeteria. I slept an average of four hours a night the first couple of years. I didn’t have a car, but I was keeping up with my grades and my job. I was fortunate enough to meet the man I would end up marrying, and it was a miracle I was awake enough hours a day to go on dates and get to know him. He was and still is one of the most supportive people I have ever met, and I am not sure I would be here without him. Through some connections with musicians in town like Bill Oglesby and Katie Goodrum, who wanted to play tango and other styles, the idea of Athens Tango Project started to form. I was surprised, because I felt that nobody knew me or the music I was trying to make. I was so used to living in it and playing it that I had never had to describe it to anybody back home. It took years of trial and error. Finding the most skilled players in town also meant they graduated and left, so I had to start the process from zero with somebody new. It took a long time to figure out what the rest of the musicians needed, and my schedule was always insane and exhausting. After my undergrad and master degrees, I started getting jobs teaching in schools, while I continued to play in regional orchestras and with Athens Tango Project.I was around this time that I bough my first professional-level double bass, and also started touring internationally, which I love. I then burned myself into the ground by overworking myself with commutes to Atlanta, full time teaching and performances. That was when I had to drop some projects and jobs and keep only what I really wanted to do next. Although I achieved a few milestones/ bucket list items, (tours, performances, writing and performing music for documentaries, being played in local and international radios, local awards, teaching master classes in colleges and schools) I still have a larger list to go. I still seek some kind of structure, and now most of it depends on me.  The pandemic hit during this personal process, and many projects and tours stalled, but my latest change had already begun six months earlier. If anything, being able to find the time to try other avenues allowed me to discover how much I enjoy writing music on commission, researching and writing about what I do, and how much I still feel the most energized while performing on stage. Most importantly, taking those leaps has given me great things like knowing myself better. Risk is not for the faint of heart, but when your heart, the need to share music, and a performance career are the largest parts of what makes you, YOU, that growth/risk package of a life is how you truly feel alive.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
An important part for me was finding what I really wanted to do within the music world , and sticking to those things. I stopped trying to play everything  with everyone, and I chose to focus. Now we’re finally recording our first  full-length with the amazing Jason NeSmith. A lot of collaborating artists are flying from out of state to be in it , which makes it all further reaching musically, and personally fills my heart with joy to play with all these musicians. The most proud I’m of is still being here after two decades of literal struggle, start over, struggle again. The most exciting part to me is to find a balance between two things I love: sharing what I do academically, and being on stage performing. It was not easy at all. I even had interviews that ended up with erroneous headlines about the type of music we make !!! I overcame by continuing to do the work even when it was slow. I learned to accept help, and also learned that I need to learn new skills constantly to be able to move forward.

I want this diverse and intense music to stop feeling foreign to many people around me.Tango is Argentina’s blues in spirit, with an eclectic mix of influences from candombe to jazz. You can listen in a classical hall, or dance late at night, depending on the repertoire and context. Next to classic and vanguardist tangos, we’re playing and recording covers of local Athens Ga artists we love ( R.E.M, Olivia Tremor Control, Pylon, Kishi Bashi, Neutral Milk Hotel) with tango elements. Good music is good music, and labels become irrelevant.  I’d like the world to know that it hasn’t seen something exactly like what we’re doing, and that we are sharing part of my culture with top notch performances and engaging academic presentations for all types of audiences .

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d take my friend to Hendershots Coffee, Creature Comforts, The Grit, Cali-n-Titos, Flicker bar, the UGA campus, to the Georgia theater, house shows, jazz jams, our record stores, and to a few of our beautiful parks with lakes.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Other artists would be Klezmer Local 42, The Hobohemians, the director of the film “Athens Rising”,  James Preston, and musician and producer Jason NeSmithI. I also have to give a shoutout to my mentor , Dr. Masciadri,  and a huge shoutout to my husband, Zack Howington.

Website: www.athenstangoproject.com

Instagram: athenstangoproject

Linkedin: Laura Camacho

Twitter: @AthensTangoProj

Facebook: Athens Tango Project

Image Credits
Official logo by Ryan Lewis .Official group photo on couch by Noah Johnson.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlanta is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.