His parents brought him to the United States from the Philippines when he was a year old, and he spent most of his life in Macon. Now, he works at an immigration law firm in Atlanta and just won a Grammy.
Raymond Partolan, 25, was featured on “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom,” which won three Grammys last night.
Partolan said he found out the album was nominated a few weeks ago.
“I thought that that was incredibly cool, but I never for a second would’ve thought that we could’ve won, so when we took home all three Grammys yesterday, it was amazing, and I’m honestly still processing the whole thing,” he said.
The three awards were Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Improvised Jazz Solo for the song “Don’t Fence Me In” and Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella for “Stars and Stripes Forever,” according to the winners list.
The album featured 53 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from 17 states and 17 countries.
Partolan said he became a beneficiary of the DACA program in 2012 that allowed him to get a driver’s license and work in the U.S.
“It allows me to live my life without the same kind of fear and anxiety and apprehension that I used to live under before DACA.”
Partolan said he became involved with the album when Producer Kabir Sehgal approached him. He met with the producers at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta to record his story in the fall of last year.
He said he sings in the chorus on some songs in the album including “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Living in America,” and he can be heard throughout the album sharing the story of undocumented immigrants in America.
Partolan said he also plays the violin, but he does not play on the album. He said he started playing in the fourth grade, and he is thankful to Macon-Bibb County Schools for his musical talent.
“I really credit a lot of my musical ability to the early training that I got as a public school student in Macon,” he said.
Partolan, a Mercer University alum, said he is also grateful to Mercer for helping him develop his advocacy skills to enable him to do his work at Kuck Baxter Immigration. He said he is excited to see what the future holds for him and members of the undocumented community.
“My only hope is that this kind of recognition will go far and wide to help tell the stories of Dreamers everywhere and that people will begin to understand the kinds of struggles that undocumented people in our country face,” he said.