New mariachi ensemble debuts at UH
The new University mariachi ensemble Mariachi Pumas aims to combine the diverse people and cultures of UH with traditional music of Mexican culture.
This fall, Mariachi Pumas, puma being Spanish for cougar, will debut at UH and perform about 40-50 performances a year at the University and all around Houston.
“Music is a bridge that really connects people all over the world,” said Jose Longoria, professional and third generation mariachi musician and director of the Mariachi Pumas.
A mariachi group typically consists of a trumpet, Spanish guitar, violin, guitarrón, which is a small acoustic bass, the vihuela – a high pitched five-string guitar – and of course, their signature style of singing.
Mariachi music has a rich history and is a staple of Mexican culture. The genre originated in 19th century Jalisco, and members play dressed in festive charro suits.
Longoria said he was thrilled when he was approached to lead the group, because he has a deep passion for music and its power to bring people together. For many years, he’s directed mariachi programs at the middle and high school levels in the Houston Independent School District.
Longoria is also the director of Mariachi Imperial De America, a Houston-based award-winning and international touring group.
“You should see his rehearsals, they’re all so fun,” said Andrew Davis, dean of the Katherine G. McGovern College of the Arts. “He’s an amazing director. The way he builds community and passion in his students is amazing.”
Davis said that representing Houston’s diversity, especially as a center for Mexican culture, is what the University is all about.
“The college is proud of its diversity, and I think this is an obvious addition to our offerings,” Davis said. “If we’re going to be proud of our University, I think we need to represent the full range of what’s happening artistically in Houston.”
Davis said having a mariachi ensemble should be a staple of Texas universities, so he’s happy that UH has finally filled that gap.
Mariachi Pumas member and health freshman Yoana Pineda was part of Longoria’s high school ensemble. For almost eight years, she’s played the vihuela and guitar.
“You start learning more and more and eventually you become passionate about it,” Pineda said.
Pineda is excited that her love of mariachi didn’t have to stop in high school and believes that this traditional music has the power to bring all kinds of people together.
“UH is one of the most diverse universities, and it can connect different ethnicities and cultures,” Pineda said. “I’m excited to see other students join.”
The ensemble will reside in the Moores School of Music in the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts and is open to any student of any majors that wants to join.
Longoria said the group is looking to host two groups within Mariachi Pumas: one competitive group for experienced players, and a more relaxed group for those who haven’t played in a mariachi group before but are interested in learning.
“We hope that it’s something awesome for everybody,” Longoria said.