York grads travel to Johannesburg for World Cup 2010 shows

The World Cup generates enough excitement for those who only watch it on TV – but for two York grads, the experience will be even more exhilarating.

Not only are Amanda Martinez (IMBA ’99) and Jaclyn Tam (BA Hons. ’06) in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the once-every-four-years event, but Martinez, a singer-songwriter who graduated from the Schulich School of Business, will be performing this weekend at three FIFA Fan Fest events for crowds of 40,000 soccer fans with tour manager Tam handling all the details.

Amanda Martinez and her band will perform at the World Cup this weekend. Photo by Ian Brown.

The trip was confirmed just three weeks ago when the Canadian High Commissioner’s office called to tell Martinez she had been chosen to perform with her band. “I had decided to write a song when I was in Puerto Rico for the Billboard Bash [Billboard’s Latin music awards held in April] and met someone who was working for a client on the World Cup, and he said he would pitch it,” she said. The pitch worked and Martinez will perform her song  – an upbeat ode to her parents’ birth countries and the World Cup – at events this weekend in Soweto, Sandton and Newtown. Sueños Posibles (Dreams Realized) is available as a free MP3 download at Martinez’s Web site.

The trip will be especially meaningful for Martinez, whose mother was born in South Africa: she will be meeting her relatives and watching her father, a devout soccer fan and former player, enjoy his second World Cup since it was held in his native Mexico in 1970. “My dad is a huge soccer fan,” said Martinez. To top it off, South Africa plays Mexico in the opening match today at 10am. In an interview with CBC TV, Martinez admitted she will need to cheer for both teams to keep peace in the family.

Amanda Martinez and Jaclyn TamLeft: Martinez and Jaclyn Tam in Johannesburg

With so much personal excitement to contend with, Martinez will need her tour manager, Tam, to take care of the details of getting her to work on time this weekend. Daughter of York staffer Lynda Tam, director of academic affairs in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Jaclyn met Martinez when she was host of “Café Latino” on Toronto’s Jazz.FM91 radio. After graduating from the Fine Arts Cultural Studies Program at York, Tam took broadcasting at Humber College and wanted to interview Martinez about being a radio host. After the interview, Tam was invited to help produce some of Martinez’s shows and, after two one-year stints as an on-air reporter and host at radio stations in Timmins and Hamilton, she became Martinez’s tour manager. “She has the best organizational and detail management skills [and] I am lost without her now!” said Martinez.

Although Tam admits she isn’t a devoted soccer fan, she says she is still excited about the trip and the Fan Fest events. “I’m really looking forward to the performances, the band performing in front of 40,000 people and just soaking up the energy of the people at World Cup,” she said. Among the many details Tam will be managing on this trip is scoring a few tickets to games for the boss and her parents. It will also be her job to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the Martinez’s parents’ last World Cup experience in 1970 where they became separated in the crowd outside the stadium. “My mom was with his mother, who didn’t speak English, but they managed to talk themselves into the game when they couldn’t find my dad. He had the tickets,” said Martinez.

Martinez said the Fan Fest audiences will be the biggest of her career to date playing with her own band. Her last appearance before a large audience was as guest artist with flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook at shows in Montreal and Dubai.

After graduating from Schulich, Martinez worked for six months as the Latin American relationship manager with one of Canada’s leading banks before quitting in 2001 to follow her dream of becoming a singer – a decision she likened to “jumping off a cliff.” Instead of falling, her career has been on a steady rise ever since with appearances at jazz and Latin music festivals, private events and the tour with Cook. Martinez is becoming a regular at York University events: she was a featured performer at the York University Foundation’s York to the Power of 50 wrap event held June 3 at Glendon Manor (see YFile, June 4) and performed at the York in Concert Black Tie Gala in March 2009 (see YFile, April 3, 2009). She released her second album Amor to good reviews in October 2009.

Although the pair was en route to Johannesburg on Tuesday when they were interviewed by e-mail, Tam said she had already noticed that special euphoria that the World Cup generates every four years. “Our plane ride from JFK [International Airport] to Dubai was full of soccer fans,” she said. “My impression so far is that soccer really is a unifying sport that brings out a particularly fierce passion in people from any country in the world. People are in love with their team and will literally travel to the ends of the earth to watch them play.”

By David Fuller, YFile contributing writer