Name: Joel Polanco
Hometown: Harlem, NY
Describe your first performance at SBU.
Joel: “My first performance was at Roth Regatta Spring 2015. I walked up nervous and excited, but the energy was beyond this world. I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life. I knew deep inside I had a purpose when I heard my name being announced. I walked up those stairs and it was like I was another person. I was in front of a crowd that was waving, screaming and supporting me.”
What factors influenced your decision to perform?
Joel: “As a kid I used a remote as a microphone and I always stood in front of this mirror and pictured myself performing. I’d close my eyes and see a crowd of supporters then open my eyes and see myself in the mirror. When I got the opportunity to perform, I knew I had to take it. Now it’s like a dream come true. My family also influenced me because I’m the first in my family to go to college so I feel like I have to set an example.
I had second thoughts, though. I was running on a tight schedule because I only had three weeks to record songs for the performance and I didn’t think I could do it. The nerves also kicked in, but deep inside, I knew this was what I wanted and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
What is the overall genre of your music?
Joel: “Soulful hip-hop and rap.”
From where do you draw inspiration for songs?
Joel: “Life experiences and vibrations – the energy of everything – my thoughts, my notions, where I come from, and my family’s struggles. Seeing things at an early age that most kids wouldn’t see and experiencing the power structures from my neighborhood introduced me to a form of negativity that existed. My parents raised us to be loyal, respectful, and with so many other values, but as I got older I saw that the world was not like that. I started to experience the evil side of things and I realized my parents worked very hard to keep me on track. They were afraid to open the doors to negativity. Not everyone is built to take negativity, so my songs open them up to a little bit of that. Furthermore, sometimes people just need that little extra push in their lives.”
Which of your songs is your absolute favorite?
Joel: “I have two: ‘Home’ and ‘Rise’. ‘Home’ was written for females, especially for my mom and my sisters. Home is where the love is. I’m reminding each and every person of that, especially women, because they play an essential part in our lives. ‘Rise’ was written to keep my dreams alive by any means necessary and to inspire others.”
Do you have a life motto?
Joel: “Strive for excellence. It’s a belief system and the foundation to motivate and inspire myself. It’s all to inspire and motivate others. Believe in excellence. Strive for a better tomorrow and push for change.”
What do you think true excellence really is?
Joel: “True excellence is in everyone no matter who you are or where you’re from. It’s a means of discovery. It’s the gold within our souls and we have to discover that through the cons and pros. Picture climbing a mountain and a crowd at the base of the mountain. They all want to climb the mountain but how many people actually try? Some might slip and some actually strive to climb and reach the top. Some fall off and then there are spectators wishing the best for you, hoping you fall, or they’re confused as to what’s happening. It’s difficult and challenging. It takes a lot. I’m trying to discover what’s next after you reach the top.”
What message do you hope your audience takes away from your songs?
Joel: “To always strive no matter what life brings. Continue to do what you love. A lot of people lose sight of what they want. I’ve seen it growing up in Harlem; people just fall off the wagon. I realize it takes strength and a positive outlook to survive in an atmosphere of negativity and we don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s like looking at a beautiful picture. We see pretty colors and a nice scene but our first impressions could be totally different from what’s really going on.”
What kind of impact do you think your songs have on the Stony Brook community or the world beyond SBU?
Joel: “There’s too much negativity keeping us down. Let’s strive for excellence and we can all change. I can’t change the whole entire world, but there are different worlds. Stony Brook is its own world; different traditions, religions, and beliefs are their own world. I want to keep the hope alive and that’s what I want to embed in peoples’ lives. I want to spark that light bulb in someone’s brain and that person could spark a light in five other people, who might then spark something in a number of other people. The chain reaction is absolutely fantastic.”
How do you usually market your talent?
Joel: “Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and I have a site that is coming out soon. Earlier this semester I handed out flyers in the hopes of increasing the audience.”
What challenges have you faced thus far?
Joel: “Time. Time is my worst enemy that continues to tick against me. I want to accomplish so much in so little time: music, my website, school, finals, projects, my personal project – a.k.a. my mixtape but I call it my project. Also building my own empire is another focus but it’s hard to do that from scratch. Some people are fortunate to have been born into an empire that’s already built; I have to make a name for myself. Fighting the negative thoughts is an obstacle as well. There’s the thought that I might not make it to be what I want to be but the passion in my music reminds me to keep my eyes on the prize.”
How do you overcome those challenges?
Joel: “Writing music and taking things one step at a time and reminding myself – listening to my inner voice – of what I want and what’s important and my family. When there’s a lot to do there’s sacrifice. You do one thing or another. I like to focus completely on one thing before moving on to something else. If you lose one thing you gain the other.”
Are there any upcoming performances for you?
Joel: “Not for this semester, however I will be performing in small cafes in the city and at open mics.”
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
Joel: “I have yet to paint that picture. I have different avenues: finance; music, my movement of striving for excellence, and I’m also on the rugby team on campus. I’m still trying to discover that and that’s why we are all in college. Speaking for people like myself who are unsure, we are still striving to see what our capabilities are.”
What advice would you give to students who are unsure of following their dreams?
Joel: “I’m still struggling myself. It may seem hard but we all go through it. Continue pushing forward. Everyday is full of battles, call it what you may, but listen to that inner voice that knows what we truly want. We just have to believe. The only thing that can take away the passion inside your beliefs is death. I live through those who support the movement – every time I perform I perform for them. Nobody can stop you except for you.”
Facebook: Joel Polanco
Youtube: Joel Polanco