Robert Anthony Castillo Brea is an upright and electric bassist, composer and arranger, music producer, visual artist, meditation instructor, community organizer, has the Quest point cape, and can varial kickflip. Robert is a first-generation American born to a Mayan-speaking father from a small village in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, and a Dominican mother who can dance bachata all night long. This Kansas City native creates as a matter of necessity, utilizing focused energy to create works meant to connect with the vast depth of human experience.
After graduating from North Kansas City High School in 2010, Robert attended North Central College in Naperville IL, majoring in Jazz Studies and minoring in Environmental Studies. Shortly after, he moved to Oregon where he accepted a position with AmeriCorps as the K-8 Music Teacher at Fossil Elementary School in Fossil, OR (pop. 473). Along with developing his own curriculum, he taught private lessons on various instruments including piano, drums, bass, violin, cello, and guitar. Castillo found himself with ample free time in the central Oregon high desert, during which he further developed his meditation practice, composed and arranged music, and began creating visual art.
Following his time in Fossil, Robert moved to Portland, OR where he founded the groove jazz ensemble The Sextet. Consisting of three horns and a three-piece rhythm section, The Sextet’s music is meant to be moved to and be moved by. Much of the music written in Fossil can be heard on their first album “In a Natural State.” When Robert moved back to Kansas City in the Fall of 2016, he reformed the group and released a second album “Blob Castle” in 2017. The Sextet released their third album “Among Friends” in September 2019. “Among Friends” is extremely diverse, consisting of everything from traditional to second line jazz, an afrobeat arrangement of the jazz standard “My Funny Valentine” to a verbatim arrangement of “Clare de Lune,” and includes a hip hop track in various odd time signatures. The album was very well received, garnering recognition from National Public Radio. Aside from The Sextet, Robert has performed all over the United States collaborating with musicians of any genre. One of these groups, The Standard vocal jazz ensemble, has been awarded the Downbeat Music Award seven times. Aside from composing for jazz orchestrations, Castillo writes for solo piano, concert band, avant garde trios, and everything in between.
In March of 2018 Robert was challenged to create enough visual art to host a solo show. Visual art has since become a passion deeper than he could have ever imagined. He jokingly claims to have graduated from YouTube University, after utilizing the resource to develop various oil painting techniques. Castillo’s visual art is as varied as his music. His subjects include Post-Classic Mayan imagery, geometric abstraction akin to Kandinsky, realistic portraiture, and at times incorporates Van Gogh-like impressionistic backgrounds. Aside from oil, he also utilizes gouache, watercolor, acrylic, colored pencil, spray paint, paint pens, glitter, and whatever else he can get his hands on.
Robert values donating time, energy, and effort through volunteering. He works with groups such as Art as Mentorship, a youth music program, where his tasks include everything from chord progression instruction to setting up the non-profit’s emails. Robert can also be found volunteering with Cross-Lines Community Outreach, where he serves on the Young Professionals Board. Robert has been married to his high school sweetheart since the summer of 2015.