Jorge Mejia is President of Sony Latin for the U.S. and Latin America. He is also a classical pianist and composer whose first album is a set of Preludes.
“Preludes” is an album of 25 stories told in music.
Some pieces play like high energy haikus, intense and forceful; others suggest elegant reflections on a moment past, a gesture remembered, a portrait sketched in three lines. The sound evokes at times the European classical tradition — but the next piece might explode with the urgency of rock.
The preludes are a reflection of, and inspiration for, Mejía’s stories and literary portraits.
“Each prelude has its own character,” he notes about the often autobiographical vignettes. “There’s a piece that is about my grandmother, who was 15 when she got married. On the day of her wedding, she asked permission from her husband and went off to skip rope. And in my imagination she was singing ‘Frere Jacques’ as she was skipping rope. And this is the image I kept firmly in mind when I was writing ‘Prelude #18 in B Minor,’ which is essentially a variation on ‘Frere Jacques.’”
“Prelude #4 in G Major” was inspired by his own wedding day, which turned into an adventure due to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in Miami. “The piece contrasts the frenetic weather with the dreamy beauty of the bride walking down the aisle of the emergency venue, which was the Fillmore Theater in Miami Beach,” wrote Billboard Magazine.
In yet another, the “Prelude in G-Minor: Part 2”, he recalls “the chaos and beauty” of his country of birth. “I was born in Colombia,” Mejia writes. “A place where you have arepas for breakfast and a nanny named Carmen who hails from a place called Montería, and reads your future in the ashes of your cigarette.”
Preludes were once musical prefaces of longer, more complex works. Improvisational in nature, the prelude evolved through the Baroque and Romantic eras, becoming a stand-alone form.
For Mejía, choosing the prelude form to tell his stories was as much an artistic as a practical decision.
As the President of Latin America and US Latin for SONY/ATV, the biggest Latin music publishing house in the world and home to the songwriting catalogues of global stars such as Pitbull, Ricardo Arjona and The Beatles, Mejía oversees Latin America as well as the Latin market in the United States. He has been named to Billboard’s “40 Under 40” as well as to its Top 20 Latin Power Players list for several years running, most recently in 2015. In addition, and mostly under his tenure, Sony/ATV Latin has been recognized as ASCAP’s Publisher of the Year for 13 years in a row.
Working on the business and artistic sides of music informs his approach to both, he says. “It’s been an amazing experience because I really believe I can understand what it means to be on the other side of the table,” explains Mejía. ’I’d like to think that I can empathize with an artist because I know, from first-hand experience, how hard it is. Being commercially successful depends on so many unknowns, and so many things that are not necessarily in anyone’s control, that artists should just make the music that allows them to sleep well at night.”
Jorge Andrés Mejía was born in Bogotá, Colombia. The family moved to Miami when he was 13. His mother, who was the Colombian consul general in Chicago until 2010, “did lots of things. She was a singer songwriter. She was also a TV presenter. Now she writes books.” His late father was a banker who served as Finance Minister for Colombia during a critical juncture in the country’s development and worked later at the World Bank. “I like to say that I got my creative side from my mom and my business sense from my dad,” says Mejía.
As a pianist, his is not your standard child prodigy story. “I actually started in earnest when I was 15, which is quite late, but I was blessed with a teacher who really believed in me,” he recalls. “I auditioned for him and he told me he would give me some lessons and I would audition to The New School of the Arts, and that’s what I did — with 6 months of piano under my belt. But in those 6 months I had practiced 8 to 10 hours a day, every day, and I got in.”
He later studied at New England Conservatory in Boston, and the University of Miami, graduating with a degree in piano performance. As he was completing his schooling, by the end on the 90s, he had two jobs, teaching piano and working at a bookstore. He stopped teaching (“You have to really love it — and I didn’t love it.”) and sought out an internship at Sony Music instead. “I started it thinking ‘I’m going to learn as much as I can about the music business because I’m forming this rock band as soon as I’m done with my degree.’” In 1998, Mejía did indeed form his own “very loud” rock band, The Green Room, with which he recorded, was featured on an MTV3 Unplugged and played clubs on weekends. “It was my project. I wrote the music and hired the rest of the players. I loved playing with a rock band.”
Meanwhile, the Sony internship evolved into a career in the business side of music, eventually leading to his position today.
But Preludes is not a return to actively writing and performing music. “Music has never left me,” says Mejía. “I’ve always, always been doing something that had to do with playing and writing music. These days, I practice every day. I get up very early and create in the mornings, then come to my office (where I’ve made sure we have a piano, of course) and, in the evenings, I play.”
“This recording is the very beginning of what is, in fact, a bigger project in which each prelude is a musical reflection of a chapter in a book,” he says. “For now though, it’s just the recordings of the piano preludes. I want the music to stand on its own.