It's rough to be a musician living in Dallas. This is especially true for Sofia Weir,the percussionist for Latin band Mayta and part-time player for Supersonic Lips. For the past few months, Weir, who's also currently a college student, has been suffering from a stress-related illness that she's only recently recovering from.
It all started in February when Weir began feeling the visible symptoms of her illness. At 22, with a heavy music routine on top of school, the medical circumstance (which she chose not to divulge the details of) isolated her from the people around her, forcing her to scrutinize every aspect of her life. At first, she told her band mates that she couldn't go to practice and had to focus on her academics; Weir is also a mechanical engineering major at UNT.
“They didn't really know that I was sick because I didn't say anything and I didn't know either, I didn't know what was going on,” she says. “So I got myself checked out and it turned out that I was pretty sick.”
She started missing out on shows and class because she physically couldn't leave the house.
“It was when I told them that I couldn't play anymore when it kind of changed,” she recalls. “I think a lot of people were worried that I was leaving the band.”
Luckily, she has plenty of support. Weir has been a part of the local Latin American music family since she was a small child. At five years old, her father started Parranda Venezuela, a group that plays a genre of Venezuelan music that is popular during the holidays. At that time, she started doing backup vocals for the band. Weir said the band is like an “extended family” for her, so playing music has been a huge part of her daily life ever since childhood.
“We would rehearse for maybe two hours and eat for four hours,” Weir says. “Everyone would be drinking and hanging out.”
Then it was around seven or eight that she started playing percussion in that band. She also started playing piano at her elementary school. An early memory of hers was listening to artists like Sergio Mendez and Brazilian music with her family in the car. “That stays in your consciousness forever,” she says. “Your first experiences with music I think have a lot to do with the way that musical experiences are framed for the rest of your life.”
Today, Weir plays guitar, piano and other classic Latin American instruments like tambora, furruco and the güiro. While she still plays with Parranda during the holidays, the other two bands she plays with on a more regular basis both vary in style. Supersonic Lips has more of an alternative rock sound, while Mayta combines the rhythmic sounds of Latin America: Peruvian, Bolivian, Mexican, Cuban and Venezuelan, with a heavy rock tinge. She's been playing in Mayta for the past few years and recently contributed to Supersonic Lips' upcoming new EP, although her illness has still been holding her back in recent months.
Weir admits that, outside of her recent health issues, one of the biggest challenges of playing in the Latin American music scene in Dallas is being a woman. Men, she says, often have unrealistic and sexist expectations of the way she should dress and perform. So Weir has tried to to overcome that barrier by breaking the stereotype. Dressing like a man works, she said.
Now that she's out of school for the summer, Weir says she looks forward to going back in the near future, despite going back to the stress of performing. With time, she believes, it'll all even out.
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In the meantime, she still practices every day by playing guitar, singing or maybe playing maracas with her dad for half an hour.
“I try to take care of my needs and nurture myself as a musician and a person. It doesn't all revolve around music but I think it all culminates in music,” Weir says.
With that said, she prefers to fill her day with fulfilling activities “rather than just float along with little direction”, along with staying “engaged with life rather than trying to escape.” She also finds release by painting, drawing and gardening. By doing these, she puts her self-care treatment first and foremost.
“I just have to make sure that I'm not overstimulated or overly stressed out or eating bad,” Weir says. “For me a big part of it is what I eat because I can just feel it right away affecting me so I think as long as I can keep a handle on things all around then it's okay and I'll be fine.”