Q&A with musician Tony Melendez


Michaela Roman

Tony Melendez is interviewed before his performance at the Sun Bowl during “Two Nations, One Faith.”

Amanda Guillen , Editor-In-Chief

Born with the gift of musical talent, guitarist, signer, composer and songwriter Tony Melendez has made an impact in the music world.

Melendez is unlike most guitarists—he plays with his feet.

He was born without arms and has made sure that his disability doesn’t stop him from making music.

His unique style has allowed him to play all over the world and also for Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Melendez performed in front of nearly 28,000 people at the Sun Bowl, where he was one of the entertainers at the “Two Nations One Faith” papal celebration mass on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

He spoke with The Prospector and shared his excitement about the pope’s visit to the border and his role in the papal celebration at the Sun Bowl.

Q: How did you get the invitation to play at this event?

A: I got a personal invitation by (El Paso) Bishop (Mark) Seitz and first we get a call from head of office and his people and then he (Pope Francis) actually called me personally, which I felt very honored. So it is a gift to be a part of this event.

Q: What is your relationship with El Paso?

A: I love El Paso, I’ve been through here many times. Every time during Christmas and New Years, I would drive from Missouri to LA or from LA to Missouri and this was kind of the halfway point.

Q: What do you hope people who have never seen you get from your performance today?

A: You’ll see a guy playing the guitar with no arms, and you know at first it’s kind of like “that can’t be real,” but you know I really believe that after a song, a song and a half, it turns into real music and people start getting involved and start singing and clapping along and it inspires them. That’s where I know our good Lord is taking over and touching hearts beyond what Tony Melendez can keep doing. I play the guitar, yes, but I know it goes way beyond that.

Q: Considering that you are not from here, what is your outsiders’ perspective on Pope Francis’ visit to the border?

A: The pope is going to prisons, he is meeting with some of the immigrants that are stuck, you know on their way somewhere—you know I really believe, as an immigrant myself, you dream big and never let your dream die especially, if it is for good, especially if it is for your family, if it’s to help you, and I’m not talking just financially. But I hope that it takes you to a better level for your heart, for your family, for you, and that’s what my main prayer for anyone would be.

Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected].