Jazz bassist, teacher

Carlos T. Laguana grew up at a time when noted jazz musicians throughout Guam were making a name for themselves. The son of the late Carlos C. Laguana, Carlos T. Laguana was exposed to music at an early age. Laguana’s father, widely recognized musician on Guam, played the upright bass, piano, guitar, violin, mandolin, banjo, and ukulele, so music was always present at home. Laguana also spent much of his childhood listening KUAM Radio while growing up in Sinajana, further fueling his interest in music.

Too young to venture out into the many nightclubs in which local musicians played, Laguana followed his father to village celebrations to hear the various bands entertain.

At one particular party during Laguana’s childhood, he asked his father to sit in with the band with which his father was playing. Laguana was too short at the time to play his father’s upright bass, so his father took some empty wooden soda cases, stacked them up, and stood him on top of them so that he could reach the bass. This would mark Laguana’s first experience playing the upright bass, although at the time he really didn’t know how to play and just pretended to following along with the band.

Laguana attended Berkeley College of Music in Boston. He started out as a guitar major, but later changed his field of study to the bass after seeing other students carrying the instrument throughout the campus. After graduating from college, Laguana moved to Washington, DC where he lived for several years. There he played with John Mallachai and Clea Bradford, well-known musicians in the area during the 1980s.

Laguana draws inspiration from many famous musicians, including Wes Montgomery, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Eddie Gomez, and Ray Brown.

Laguana has been a teacher for about fifteen years and currently teaches beginning band and some vocational band at Jose Rios Middle School in Piti. Laguana also provides private guitar lessons and teaches classical guitar part-time at the University of Guam. Outside of his professional life, Laguana continues to find time to play bass on the local musician’s circuit.

By James Perez Viernes, PhD

Editor’s note: The photos and initial research for this entry is courtesy of Mico and Stevie Scott’s Jazz on Guam: An Oral History, a project funded by the Guam Humanities Council and in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.