How Roger Sanchez Went From Visual Art and Architecture to House Music
Aug 8, 2022
3 min read
Roger Sanchez has become synonymous with timeless talent, decade-defining dance music, and needle-moving industry development. Few artists have withstood the test of time like the critically acclaimed New York native, and even less have done so while staying true to their passion for the music.
A child of the ’70s and ’80s, Sanchez spent his formative years in an impeccably fertile center for culture and creativity, Queens, New York. The 80s were a time of profound experimentation and redirection in music and art, and a young teenage Roger found himself smack dab in the middle.
Roger, like many children of the time, found himself fascinated with comic books. As he entered his early teens, his fascination with comic illustrations turned into a love for graffiti art, an interest that grew hand-in-hand with a budding love of early hip-hop and the breakdancing that accompanied it. Growing up in the cultural hotbed of the big apple fostered the exploration of these blossoming past-times, but this exploration would reach new heights when Sanchez entered high school.
"Home" a sketch by Roger Sanchez
Roger attended the prestigious High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. Over the years, the institution has served as a teenage learning center for movers and shakers like Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, and Tony Bennet, to name a few. As a result, Sanchez found himself sharing hallways and classrooms with graffiti spearheads Tracy 168 and Lee Quiñones and producing pioneer Kurtis Mantronik.
As a young breakdancing graf writer, an early teenage Roger was first exposed to DJing when a handful of his friends began spinning vinyl. Bronx river parties and Zulu Nation jams brimming with art, music, and dance would punctuate those formative teenage years. But Roger’s life would soon change when a DJ friend asked him to take over the decks at a small house party. And soon, Sanchez was scrounging together money any way he could to start collecting vinyl.
By the time Roger entered college, he was organizing parties and selling mixtapes to fund those parties. At the time, Sanchez studied architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. While his education progressed, so did his DJing, but balancing the two pursuits inevitably took a toll. In his final year of university, Roger had a life-altering conversation with his father. He shared the conversation in an interview with DJMag.
“He was very much the taskmaster, making sure that I was on top of my studies throughout my youth. One day, he was like, ‘I see your grades aren’t doing as great when you’re spending a lot of time DJing.’ And then he really surprised me with his take: ‘You know, if you really love this DJing thing, if you’re not really wholeheartedly into architecture, why don’t you spend your time DJing? You never know, you might become the best DJ in the world!’
“That was not the conversation I expected,” he continues, “but it was actually a very pivotal one, because it gave me the psychological permission to follow what was really in my heart.”
Roger left school to pour himself into music and never looked back. Since then, he has become the legend we know today as a Grammy award-winning producer, multi-DJ Award winner, and one of the most influential figures in all dance music.