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Mas Musica, Por Favor!

New Mariachi Program a Resounding Success

Cheers, ‘gritos’ and applause erupted from the standing-room-only crowd in the Elta Joyce Murphey Auditorium when Angelo State’s new Mariachi Los Pastores (The Shepherds) ensemble performed its first concert on May 1.

That debut concert also marked the culmination of more than a year of preparations that began when ASU officials consulted with Rosendo Ramos, mariachi director at Lake View High School and Lincoln Junior High, in early 2022.

“Dr. John Klingemann and Joe Muñoz reached out to me and said ASU wanted to start a mariachi ensemble and wanted it to really work this time,” Ramos said. “We had several meetings, and I made proposals on how we could make a lasting program. They were very supportive, and I could tell they really wanted to make it work. I also told them that I would love to be the one who starts it.”

A native of Acuña, Mexico, who grew up in San Angelo, Ramos comes from a long line of mariachi musicians. As a student at ASU, he helped start a mariachi student organization in 2010, but it fizzled out after he graduated with his music education degree in 2011. Now, he has added ‘ASU mariachi director’ to his list of titles.

“ASU is my alma mater, so I wanted to take care of the mariachi program because it’s like my baby,” Ramos said. “Luckily, we were able to get everything we needed, and we started it off right last fall.”

“Mariachi music is powerful because audiences know what you’re singing about from the way you sing it.”

- Rosendo Ramos

“It will be a great recruitment tool for ASU,” said Klingemann, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “There are local and regional high schools that have mariachi programs, but there was no local university with a program for those students to enroll in once they graduated. Now, ASU can fill that void. The mariachi program also enhances the cultural relationship we have with the community.”

That enhanced relationship was on full display at the May 1 concert.

“It was amazing,” Ramos said. “It really got me emotional because mariachi brings in a different audience. There are a lot of Hispanics in our community, and it was awesome to see that part of the community come to the ASU campus to support our program.”

“As I looked out into the crowd,” Klingemann added, “the majority of it wasn’t made up of the folks who traditionally come to our music performances. There were definitely a lot of people there who you wouldn’t normally see on campus.”

To build on the 12 students in the program who performed at the debut concert, Ramos stayed busy this summer recruiting at regional high schools. Mariachi Los Pastores also performed at ASU New Student Orientations to engage incoming students, and all current students are invited to attend twice-weekly practices to see if they are interested in joining.

“Eventually my plan is to have two classes,” Ramos said. “One for more experienced students so we can play more difficult music, and the other for students who want to come in and learn a bit about the culture and the music.”

“Mariachi music is different because it encompasses a bit of everything from the fine arts,” he added. “When our students perform, we want them to be theatrical. When they sing, it’s a little bit of choir. When they play, it includes the instrumental music. They also have to memorize the music. Mariachi music is powerful because audiences know what you’re singing about from the way you sing it.”

The next Mariachi Los Pastores concert on campus is set for Dec. 5, and the ensemble has also begun receiving requests to perform at various community events.

“We’re going to do as many as we can,” Ramos said. “My goal is also to have a more advanced group to take part in college-level competitions and showcases. There are several other colleges with established mariachi programs, so I would like to show them that ASU has a mariachi program that we are proud of and that will be just as strong as any other group. Our students are doing well, and they’ll be ready to go in no time.”

It’s safe to say that Mariachi Los Pastores has laid a solid foundation for success.

“I’m really excited for the future. This is only the beginning.”

- Rosendo Ramos

“I think we’ve done a magnificent job with the mariachi program in the first year, and I have to give Rosendo credit for that,” Klingemann said. “His passion and his dedication are infectious, and it’s amazing to watch him work with the students.”

“It’s awesome to be able to teach at this level,” Ramos added. “It’s also very powerful how we are expanding the type of culture reference that mariachi brings. Hopefully, we can also encourage our audiences to attend other ASU ensemble concerts to support the entire music program.”

“I’m really excited for the future. This is only the beginning.”