Born in Brazil, Theis has dual citizenship. He was raised outside of Baltimore, and his mom commuted to Washington, D.C., for work. He moved to the Mile High City in 2014, after being robbed a couple of times at gunpoint. “It was always a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ situation,” he recalls. “But with that, I now live in Colorado; I wouldn’t have my wife had that not happened, or wouldn’t have started The Orchestrator in the same way. So I am grateful that I’m here now.”
Theis was drawn here by the Red Rocks effect, which pulls so many music lovers to the state. He first visited Denver to see Gary Clark Jr. headline the Ogden Theatre in October 2013, “and then that next summer in July, I saw him headline Red Rocks, and I was like, ‘I’m moving out here,'” he says.
He still returns to the East Coast to visit, but the last time he played a gig in D.C., a gun was pointed at him yet again, this time by a road-raged driver. “I mean, that’s a reason why I came out to Colorado. It’s because it hasn’t happened to me here at all,” he says.
As soon as he moved here, Theis started hitting up open-mic nights around Denver. He was in a duo with a high school friend, playing guitar while his friend played drums. “He was a great saxophone player,” Theis recalls, but he wasn’t a very good drummer: “I was like, ‘You know, we’re not going to get very far in the next few years if you just keep trying to play drums.'”
So the pair split in 2017, and Theis bought another friend’s saxophone that had been sitting unused in its case for more than a decade. “I ended up taking that saxophone home and cleaned it, and the first time I went to go put my mouth on it, a black widow crawled out of the saxophone,” he remembers. “It felt like an omen at that point.”
But the ostensibly dark omen turned out to be a bright one. Theis attended what he calls “YouTube University,” teaching himself to play the sax from one YouTube video after another in his apartment in Littleton. Unfortunately, a neighbor named Bev wasn’t too pleased with his playing, even though Theis insists he only practiced during the day, when most people weren’t home.
“But this lady, Bev, I guess was always home,” he says. “Bev would complain. She started complaining to the HOA. We’d get $25 fines — anytime there’s a noise complaint, $25 fine. So my roommate was like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna need to do something about this.’ And I was like, ‘What do you want me to do? I’m practicing saxophone’…and then the police started getting called.”
He remembers telling the police: “I don’t know what you want me to do. I mean, if I was in fourth grade, what would you want a fourth-grader to do?”
Theis moved out of that house and into another, where he met his wife, whom he married last June. Playing the sax not only led him to find a soulmate, but also a new sound as he created his jazzy act with keys, guitar, drums and more, mixing and mastering all of his music himself. But he owes his transformation into The Orchestrator to a particular hummingbird.
“I had a really crazy acid trip,” Theis recalls, “and I talked to this hummingbird that told me to save the whales.”
He originally called the new project The Orcastrator, and donated money he made off it to the Orca Conservancy in Seattle. “But no one could really find my music,” he laments, “and I was basically just giving money away when I didn’t have money to give away.”
He changed his name to The Orchestrator in 2021, dubbing the sound “trap house funk.” He’s done forty singles and will release his first EP, Saxophone Dreams, on all major streaming platforms on Thursday, February 9.
The EP displays all of his multi-instrumental talents, as well as Theis rapping and digging into more hip-hop-infused soundscapes. While the rapping is somewhat new, he hasn’t lost the funky beats that wobble under fluttering trills off his saxophone or jazzy guitar riffs, nudging listeners to dance to the captivating melodies he conjures by blending the variety of genres. This is music that can be played as a calming background track while you’re driving through the mountains or plugging away at work…if you don’t mind others poking their head in to find out who the cool new artist is that you’re listening to.
This music has allowed Theis to become a full-time musician, a feat many only dream of. But Theis has the motivation and innovation to make his dreams come true. It helps that he made an unusual investment after receiving a $2,500 Colorado Arts Relief grant during the pandemic.
“I invested in cryptocurrency,” he says, “and I made about $15,000 to $20,000 off of it. That pushed me to start an NFT company of my own, and just last year is when I launched it. So I ended up making about $15,000 from that, as well.”
His NFT company, Musician NFT, is more of a music collective that works as a marketing agency of sorts for The Orchestrator. “My NFT holders actually get paid a percentage of my shows,” he explains. “So my headlining shows, like this Meow Wolf show — they’re gonna get paid a collective percentage, so everybody gets a partial percentage based on how many entities they have. It’s like a shared collective marketing team. … They are technically investors. But I like to think of us more as a collective.”
People invest by purchasing The Orchestrator’s NFTs, which are custom avatars of a person playing a saxophone. Theis created 150, and all have sold out since he launched the project on January 21, 2022.
“Instead of a booking manager getting paid, my community gets paid,” he says. “The only reason I knew it would work is because there’s power in numbers. The more money I make them, the more money we all make together. They feel invested in trying to get me booked. They get paid off certain streams of my music as well. You know, they get paid royalties on a lot of my music stuff. … I’ve paid over $5,000 back just this past year to my community. And there’s all the perks of free merchandise, the show tickets, all the private parties we’ve done. It’s been pretty big for them. They feel connected, and I think that’s super important.”
Just scoring tickets to one of his concerts is a major perk. Theis says his live shows are like “Marc Rebillet’s, but without the screaming.” At Meow Wolf, he’ll have both his alto and tenor saxes and his guitar, and he’ll be doing his live electronic looping while rapping, singing and playing his instruments.
Theis’s infectious energy and enthusiasm, as well as his musical talents, contribute to The Orchestrator’s success. “I’m just thankful for all the women that have helped me in this industry, and all the people who have gotten involved with me,” he says. “Because I’m just trying to make it easier for artists to be independent. I want to show people you don’t need a manager. You don’t need a booking agent. You don’t need anybody besides yourself and your community.”
The Orchestrator, Thursday, February 9, and Friday, February 10 (sold out), at Meow Wolf, 1338 First Avenue. Tickets are $25-$30 here.
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