Art has the ability to shape culture and define regions. We romanticize cities and moments in history based on the paintings created, buildings erected, or songs composed. We visualize Rome based on its structures more than the empire that carved them. We associate Los Angeles with movies and Nashville or Memphis with music. We do this because of the artists that shaped that culture before there was a Hollywood Walk of Fame or Music Row. Although Wichita Falls has always had amazing musicians, I believe that there is currently an art and music renaissance taking place.
Over the past few years a refreshing sense of comradery has developed among local musicians. What once seemed like a realm of competitive business where musicians would undermine each other in order to get a “gig” has become an inclusive community of musical artists that encourage and promote one another. Many even share the stage and creative process just out of their common love for music. One person that stands out among the pack of Wichita Falls music innovators is Anthony Castillo.
Anthony Castillo shines when he has the freedom to express himself. Whether it be through his songwriting, performing, or providing background support to others, he brings passion and creativity to every musical scenario.
Castillo was exposed to music growing up with piano playing sister and a dad that played accordion and trumpet. This variety treated him well, allowing him to experiment. He says that he didn’t have interest in “mastering” an instrument early in life. “I don’t think my attention span allotted me to stick to one thing and learn it well,” he admits. “I was just always trying to learn something new.”
Anthony didn’t grow up easy and chose his escape route immediately after high school through the U.S. Army where he found the much need structure and discipline that was missing from his life. He picked up guitar at the age of 18 while serving in the Army. Aside from that he recalls sitting on the steps of the Army barracks playing his trumpet.
Following his stint in the military he returned to Fort Worth where he landed a job in sales but found that the position lacked the prestige that he experienced in uniform. “People treat you different when you’re in uniform,” he shared. It also became clear to him that there was now a disconnect between him and his peers. He continues, “In the civilian world someone always has a second play and is always out for something. There’s always a side angle that erodes trust”. When asked what main lesson he learned from his military days he replied, “if we all have the same goal, we can do anything”.
From Fort Worth, Anthony moved to Houston, via Austin, and found himself slipping back into some old habits which was leading him toward the old troubled life that he left after high school. He noticed this pattern and chose to redirect, “I’m going to make sure that never happens again”. The adjustment from military to civilian life boiled down to just setting his mind in a healthy direction and finding his purpose. “Getting over myself was a really big obstacle for me,” he shared. “Once I finally woke up to what it would take to be successful, I got motivated to get through school”.
While in Houston, Anthony attended community college and spent his evenings working at a restaurant where he applied the work ethic he picked up in the Army. It was during this time that a co-worker caught his eye and he realized that he needed to “step up if I was going to have a chance at winning her.” Determined to accomplish what he sets his mind to, Castillo kept his nose clean and worked hard fulfilling his responsibilities. He ended up capturing the heart of his lady, who was also going to college, and when Danielle Malagarie graduated and scored a position at Newschannel 6 in Wichita Falls the next chapter in his life opened up.
Once in Wichita Falls, Anthony enrolled at MSU to continue his education, and he wasted no time delving into the local music scene. Castillo’s charisma hitched to his unbridled talent and ability to capture his audience quickly promoted him through the ranks in the local music scene.
Anthony claims to be a student of music, always picking up new things from his surroundings. However, it’s safe to say that he is also a teacher. I have personally witnessed the atmosphere of a room change because of his musical contribution. He has often been known to finish up his own gig and proceed to a different venue and join in with another group, unplanned but always welcomed, the Wichita Falls community of musicians has viewed the accompaniment of Castillo as a pleasure. This is the case because he is a seasoned musician that knows how to add to an arrangement and fill in where needed. He may just sit back and smoothly insert some trumpet, some guitar, backing vocals, or at times even come in with some unrehearsed and in the moment free style lyrics. Although his vocal offerings are usually soulful and jazzy, he has no problem transitioning into a set of thought-provoking rhyme. “I’m a big fan of underground hip hop and the ‘real’ that it carries,” he admits.
The Wichita Falls music scene has been impacted by the talent and passion of Castillo. He has encouraged others to pour themselves into their music. He has rallied the troops and raised the bar. But the time came for him to turn the page and close this chapter. He has graduated from MSU with a degree in geoscience and has his sights set on the next great challenge. Anthony has moved to Ohio. I’m sure we will see him again. But until then, keep jamming and influencing.