Shining Light on Black Excellence: Romel Cruz Easton

By Tristan E. M. Leach

For sophomore music production major Romel Cruz Easton, music has always been a driving force in his life. 

From a young age, Cruz Easton was surrounded by the joy and connections that music brings. Growing up, his mom, dad and older sister all played instruments, and eventually Cruz Easton decided to start learning the violin. 

“My sister played violin previous to me … so I was like ‘This classical music is hitting different.’ Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, some of the greats. I love to incorporate [classical music] into my own music,” said Cruz Easton. 

Cruz Easton played the violin until he graduated high school. He briefly considered majoring in architecture; however, Cruz Easton decided to pursue a major he would love and that would bring him joy. 

This decision continues to pay off for Cruz Easton. He currently has at least 20 songs in the works, all of which are passion projects. Cruz Easton credits Justin Burton, an associate professor for the music production major, for motivating Cruz Easton and keeping him in the creative headspace no matter what. 

“Coming into Rider I didn’t know anything about production at all. I was kind of fresh [to producing]. Burton took us step by step, giving us the best advice and making sure we wrote everything down,” said Cruz Easton, “He’s an educational support and an emotional anchor for people. He says, ‘Put your mental health first, above school.’” 

Burton said, “My experience of [Cruz Easton] is that he tends to be really engaged with the students around him and gets along well with others. He is just a generally positive presence in the classroom.”

For Cruz Easton, music is how he relaxes and maintains his mental health. He emphasized the joy and pride that he feels when listening to one of his finished songs.

When he isn’t making music, Cruz Easton is hard at work as a community assistant for Lincoln Hall. The job was a no-brainer for Cruz Easton who has always had a knack for leadership. 

“To become a CA, for me, is in my blood. I’ve been leading since I could remember. I was a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout and then did work that was equivalent to the Eagle Scout work. Leading has just been second nature,” said Cruz Easton. “Being a CA I get these benefits with housing, and I get paid, but also I get to help people be themselves and be comfortable on campus. It’s all positive.” 

Cruz Easton’s positive impact and passion is felt all over campus. Jay Johnson, a senior sports media major, is a CA with Cruz Easton and collaborates with Cruz Easton on his music. Johnson is one of several Rider students that is featured on and has worked with Cruz Easton on musical projects. 

Johnson said, “I’m rapping on the album. I’m on two or three songs, which is very exciting.”

Sophomore music production major Romel Cruz Easton mixes a song in a sound booth in the Fine Arts building. Photo courtesy of Romel Cruz Easton

Johnson expressed his excitement at the opportunity to work Cruz Easton, emphasizing that Cruz Easton has given Johnson a space to develop his skills. 

“I found out I could rap in elementary school. I found out I could freestyle and since then I kind of used it as a party trick, and now every time someone needs someone to freestyle, I’m there,” said Johnson. 

While he still has a couple of years until graduation, Cruz Easton is looking toward the future. Cruz Easton hopes to someday have his own studio and  music for Grammy Award-winning artists and win a Grammy. After establishing himself in the industry he wants to open a space where kids from impoverished backgrounds can learn how to produce music. 

“I want to start a non-profit building where kids from not- so-well maintained communities come out to learn about music and then possibly work around the area in music so they don’t have to do things that shouldn’t be talked about in public,” said Cruz Easton. 

For now, Cruz Easton is producing all of his music out of his room in Lincoln Hall and in the Fine Arts building. He is pushing himself to get his EP, “R and R,” which can stand for either “Rebounds and Rejects” or “Relaxation and Rest,” out by the end of this semester. The album will feature eight or nine tracks of original music. 

“These are something special,” said Cruz Easton when talking about the songs. It is all about the music and leaving a positive impact for Cruz Easton. When talking about advice he would give Cruz Easton emphasized finding support and trying everything. 

Cruz Easton said, “Go for it. Find people who will always support you. You might think you’re not doing great and then someone else will say that you’re doing amazing. Always push forward.”

This article is part of the Shining Light on Black Excellence series by The Rider News to showcase impactful Black figures on campus.

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