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Marriage made of music

He wanted to further his musical hopes. She had an image of the perfect man. Together they created a special harmony.

scherzer
AMY SCHERZER'S DIARY
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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2002


NORTH HYDE PARK -- Harmonic convergence led Nidia Diaz and Roberto DeBourg down the aisle on Aug. 24, exactly three months from the night they met.

A native of Trujillo, Venezuela, 25-year-old Roberto had two reasons for coming to the United States. Getting married was not one of them. Roberto, a gifted guitarist and pianist, longed to expand his music career. Also, he wanted to hear the Dave Matthews Band in person.

Back home, Roberto's six-member band, #41, named for a Dave Matthews song, packed concert venues all across the country as one of the most popular groups in Venezuela. They recorded two hit albums, Maqueta and Bendita Tierra.

But Roberto wanted more, musically. He wanted to attend the Players School of Music, run by widely acclaimed bassist Jeff Berlin in Clearwater. He arranged a tourist visa and arrived in Miami on March 16.

Nidia, 25, a graduate of St. Petersburg Catholic High School and Florida State University, attends the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She is training to become an acupuncturist physician. About the time Roberto was unpacking at his sister's house in Boynton Beach, Nidia was compiling a list of the 50 qualities she sought in a future husband.

"Respectful, chivalrous, humorous, musical, likes to cuddle," she said. "I had a clear view of who I wanted to marry. Roberto is everything on that list."

Over on the east coast, Roberto explored the Miami bar scene, trying to get noticed at open mike tryouts, jamming with any band that invited him. While he doesn't read music, he can play anything he hears.

In May, Roberto moved a little closer to his dream of studying with Jeff Berlin. A childhood friend, Francisco Acurero, invited him to Tampa.

"I had no plans, no reason to come to Tampa, but it was close to Clearwater," he said.

A few weeks later, car trouble introduced Roberto to his future mother-in-law, Cristina Diaz. Francisco's Jeep broke down and he called her to come get them. He had recently finished some carpentry and remodeling work at her North Hyde Park home.

"It was kind of like in the movies, so many coincidences," said Diaz, a real estate agent.

Diaz not only rescued the two men, but invited them over for a party on May 24.

Nidia had other plans for that day. She organized a group of students to paint the classrooms and clinic at her school on 66th Street N in Pinellas Park. They worked all day and into the night. It was after 9 when she drove home, stopping for gas on the way. A premonition hit her at the pump.

"I was exhausted, covered with paint, and I heard this little voice say, "You have to look a little prettier because there's someone you are going to meet tonight.' I was too tired to even think about it," she said.

And there was Roberto -- 6-feet, 4-inches tall, green eyes, long, curly black hair.

"I can't believe this beautiful man is in my back yard," she said to herself.

They shook hands. The grin on Roberto's face let her know his thoughts ran along similar lines.

Behind him, stood Francisco's wife, Crislerry. Nidia assumed she was with Roberto.

"My heart stopped. I was heartbroken. I thought he was taken," she said. When Crislerry turned around to kiss Francisco, Nidia finally heeded that little voice. She fled to take a shower and put on makeup.

Now it was Roberto's heart that sank. He thought she left because she didn't like him. He went outside to the car to get his guitar, "Anastasia." He played Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh, and Nidia swooned.

"That was the first tape I ever bought because I loved that song," she recalled. It would also be the song played for their first dance after the wedding.

Nidia got out her guitar and joined him. They sang all night.

"We harmonized really well," said Nidia.

Roberto came over again the next night, Nidia's 25th birthday. This time, when he left, she asked for a birthday kiss.

The following evening -- their first date -- they got their first gig. Listening to Bartab at Margarita Mama's in Channelside. Roberto asked if he could borrow a guitar and play with them. The manager booked them for Monday and Tuesday nights.

They call their act "Two Step," after a favorite Dave Matthews Band song.

Barely a month later, Roberto asked Nidia's father, Louis Diaz, for permission to marry his daughter.

"So fast?" Diaz asked. They had just finished dinner at his Clearwater home and it was only the second time he had met this young man. He launched into a discussion of finances and the difficulties of making it as a musician.

He tried to discourage Roberto in every possible way.

Roberto pressed his case: "What does time matter when you are in love?" he asked. "We are meant for each other." His parents had known each other only a month when they married, 35 years earlier.

As he spoke with her father, Roberto realized he hadn't even asked Nidia yet. He rushed into the kitchen, pulling the ring from his pocket.

"He was so nervous I could hardly hear what he was saying," she said.

Roberto picked up a broken toy guitar and taped it together. He began strumming Endless Love,Lionel Ritchie's ballad. Nidia sang along.

"My dad started to cry," she said. "He brought out the cigars and champagne."

FatherJulio Rivero, a Venezuelan priest Nidia has known since high school, married the couple at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Tampa.

The service included the centuries-old ritual of arras, in which the groom gives the bride 13 gold coins. This signifies he accepts the responsibility of providing for her.

Roberto's parents,Rosa and Roberto A. DeBourg, educators in Valencia, Venezuela, flew in for the wedding. His brother,Robert A. DeBourg, was the best man.Vitalia Diaz Shafer, Nidia's sister, was the matron of honor.

"We were going to get married in the back yard, but things started to fall together," said Nidia.

She found a beautiful wedding gown on sale. Nachman Photography made them a special deal. Restaurateur Helen Chavez cooked up a great price for chicken, yellow rice and sangria at Don Vicente de Ybor. They met their DJ one night in the audience at Margarita Mama's.

"Our wedding was a gift from God," Nidia said.

"It materialized from nothing."

-- To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or scherzer@sptimes.com.

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