Many Roads to Here: From Homeless to a Grammy Award Win

Join us this Sunday, October 25th at 4 pm for the premiere episode of Many Roads to Here, a production of The Immigrant Story and the latest addition to PRP’s Podcast Co-op, capturing the immigrant experience in the U.S. through monthly profiles. Voices from across the globe offer intimate accounts of immigration, war, genocide, and success. Listen live at 99.1 FM in the heart of Portland – or online anywhere at


Denzel Mendoza is a Grammy award winning jazz trombonist from Singapore. His album, American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom, won the Best Large Jazz Ensemble award at the 2019 Grammys and he has performed on tours across the East Coast and at the South by Southwest festival. Mendoza is undocumented and first arrived in the U.S. at 5 years old. He is an advocate for Dreamers, known for his openness about his undocumented status and celebrated for his collaboration with other undocumented musicians.

“When I’m playing, I’m just heat.”

The first time Denzel Mendoza came out as undocumented, he was on stage in front of a crowd of strangers.

That night, he didn’t just play his trombone. He let out the raw emotions of doubt, fear and hardship that had followed him throughout his life; letting himself be truly seen, for the first time, at this random jazz house show in Portland. After that night, life began to move quickly. A few years later, Mendoza shared his undocumented identity publicly once again. But this time the crowd wasn’t filled with strangers, it was filled with celebrities; and it was no house show. It was the Grammys.

This episode was edited by Caitlin Dwyer and Monica Salazar. Audio editing was done by Rick March and Gordon Graham, and original music was provided by Denzel Mendoza. Our executive producer is Sankar Raman. This episode takes audio from an interview conducted in the winter of 2020 by Angelica Alarcon.

Post written by Monica Salazar and Degen Larkin

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