By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Sitting in a booth inside a Mexican restaurant, Jorge “JT” Sifuentes softly plays a guitar and sings into a microphone.
His amplifier is atop the table; a water pitcher next to him has a note taped to it: “Tips for JT.” The request is bookmarked by smiley faces.
There is no spotlight on JT. It’s even difficult to see him from some corners of the restaurant.
He wears a charcoal grey T-shirt and jeans. His hair is black with a ponytail; he wears black rimmed glasses. The color fits one of the tunes he sings, “Ring of Fire,” made famous by Johnny “The Man in Black” Cash.
JT’s music serves as a background for the sounds of a family restaurant with clattering plates and waiters taking orders. But without him, there is no rhythm to the buzz.
Like so many struggling singers, JT Sifuentes is trying to make a living. He may not hit all the vocal notes he would like to but his dedication is strong.
“I have to set aside my ego. They’re here to eat. They hardly really know who I am,” he says. “So I need to be put on the side. As a musician, you have to be OK with that and just push through those moments, and just hope that eventually by working hard and doing songs that someone’s maybe gonna come back.”
What diners may not see is his perseverance. As he sings at the Rivera Maya Mexican Grill on Scatterfield Road, he sits with a cast on his broken left leg.
Sifuentes was heading to his car when he missed a stair and fell to the ground. He was on his way to a local restaurant where he was to play guitar for the evening.
“I sat down, waiting for the pain to subside a little bit,” Sifuentes recalls.
The pain didn’t go away. He had broken his left leg at a spot where the tibia meets the knee. He didn’t make it to the gig. He underwent surgery. Before the operation, he was joined in prayer by Steve Williamson, Worship Arts Pastor at Madison Park Church of God. Sifuentes attends the church and plays in its praise band.
”Jorge is a man of deep faith in that he trusts the Lord to provide for his needs,” said Steve Williamson.
“I’ve seen him in the restaurant setting. My hat’s off to him. You don’t have people’s undivided attention but I’ll tell you what, in the course of the meal when I was there, at the end of several of his songs, he did receive generous applause.”
Since the accident, Sifuentes, 30, has been performing solo sets with a cast on his leg. It came at a time when, after singing in small venues with friends, he had gone solo.
“I’m learning all the cliches about what happens when all of a sudden you can’t move like you used to, the old saying that you do not know what you have til it’s gone, and humility and being appreciative of other people.”
Raised in Texas, he began playing guitar in high school, even performing Gaither-like gospel songs in church. His mother and church members bought his first guitar for $400. Divorced with two children, he plays guitar for residents of nursing homes, for inmates in jail and for diners at restaurants, including stints at Hacienda Vieja and Rockafellow’s Hall in Pendleton.
As Sifuentes readied for the cast to be removed, he noted a strengthening not only in his leg but of his faith, as well.
“I’ve served other people in the past. Now friends have had to serve me. The turning of the table has humbled me.
“Sometimes when there’s a mix of the pain and the medicine and you start getting bills, you feel defeated. I don’t feel I’m strong enough to get the strength myself, but Christ and my church have been instrumental in me not being bitter.”