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Perez Strikes A Chord For Bears

Oct 6, 2020
Not only is Francisco Perez a talented midfielder on the Cal men's soccer team, he is an accomplished and aspiring musician.

A midfield maestro for the California men's soccer team, Francisco Perez is a virtuoso off the field as well.
Now a senior, Perez has been instrumental in Cal's on-field success, starting 44 of 51 games for Cal, including all 18 matches last season. After scoring two goals as a freshman and registering three assists as a sophomore, Perez had his best year as a junior in 2019, when he posted career bests in points (10) and assists (6) to help lead Cal to the NCAA Tournament. He ranked second on the squad in assists, with two coming in a 3-2 upset win over No. 1 Washington late in the regular season, and garnered All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
"He's made incredible strides since his freshman year culminating last year into having a fantastic season," said head coach Kevin Grimes, who became Cal's career wins leader with the win over UW. "He played a key role for us in the center midfield, had a number of outstanding games, and was a great link between the defense and the attack." 
Perez wants to produce more great moments for the Golden Bears in his final season, which is scheduled to take place this spring after the rise of COVID-19 necessitated the postponement of the traditional fall season.
"It'll be amazing," Perez said of the Bears' next official game. "There'll be lots of emotions and lots of excitement and a lot of relief to be playing with the team, seeing all your friends and the coaching staff. Just like music and like everything else, soccer is an outlet where you just let your mind go and everything else just falls away and doesn't really matter at the time. It's going to be huge when we get to play that game. It's going to be pure joy."
Until then, the Southern California product is focused on the (remote) classroom – he's majoring in applied mathematics and pursuing a minor in data science – and on fostering his musical skills. Along with creating the pre-game warm-up song lists for the Bears, Perez is a talented singer and songwriter who may pursue a music career if professional soccer doesn't work out. 
Cal teammate Tommy Williamson, himself an aspiring music producer, lived in the same apartment complex with Perez when they were sophomores, and the two would often share music with each other.
"We'd always be going into each other's places, showing each other beats, our writing," Williamson said. "Francisco also produces and sings, and he's a much better singer than me."
Perez has created numerous songs, with most in Spanish and some in English. Perez, whose parents are from Mexico, is inspired by Latin singers including J Balvin, Ozuna, Los Ángeles Azules and Maná as well as English-language artists including Travis Scott, Post Malone and Drake.
Born in Santa Clarita, California, Perez says his interest in music began when he was young, when his parents were part of a church group. His father taught the four Perez siblings about music, with Francisco, the second oldest, learning to play the guitar and the keyboard. He expanded his musical interest outside of religious music once he got to Cal, making contemporary music, including reggaeton, hip hop, electrocumbia and more.
The first member of his family to go to college, Perez credits his parents for his success on the field and off.
"My dad worked two jobs for a lot of his life and my mom balanced a job along with raising me and my siblings," he said. "They always put our family first, making sure we did our best in anything we did – school, soccer, music – and so when the opportunity came for me to get scouted for Cal, they were very proud and happy for me to take that next step."
With soccer on hold for now, Perez's days are mainly devoted to remote schooling, though having an outside interest is helping him get through the pandemic, which he is dealing with from his family's home in Santa Clarita. 
"It's very strange for me," he said. "You're sitting down and looking at a screen for eight hours maybe from start to finish. Every day morphs into, 'I'm just staring at a screen all day,' and it can get very repetitive.
"Hobbies, staying active and doing things on the side to uplift and motivate you and not have every day be the exact same day, is very important. And that's when I dive into my music, when I open up a new project, sit down and write a new song, or sit down and work on something different."
"It's definitely a place where you can take your mind off things and be creative," Williamson said. "It's not an easy time to get through right now, especially when you're stuck inside because of coronavirus or these fires outside. When you have music, it really gives you something to look forward to in the day and be excited about."
Given that a few members of the team are musically inclined, is there any chance the Bears will make their own song?
"We've talked about it," Perez said. "When I've worked on the pre-game mixes, we talked about how we should've made a team-oriented song to put on there. With what's happened with COVID-19 and everyone being kind of scattered here and there, it's kind of hard now. But hopefully once things get better and we get more of a whole team in Berkeley soon, that could definitely be a possibility. That'd be cool."