UNT student wins Bass Fellowship for mariachi approach to music education

Friday, May 16, 2014 - 14:41
José Torres, professional mariachi player and ethnomusicality doctoral student in the College of Music at the University of North Texas.
José Torres, professional mariachi player and ethnomusicality doctoral student in the College of Music at the University of North Texas.

DENTON, Texas (UNT) – A music education doctoral student studying at the University of North Texas College of Music is the 2014-15 recipient of the Perry R. Bass Fellowship in Music Education.

José Torres, who is specializing in ethnomusicology, was chosen for his research into the ways music diversity can improve society and help students grow personally.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the award because the kind of work I do is not necessarily mainstream; it's nontraditional," said Torres, a professional mariachi trumpet player since his undergraduate days. He said the $5,000 award gives him a "financial cushion" to better dedicate himself to his true loves: mariachi, cultural responsiveness and teaching.

Born and raised in San Antonio, the 44-year-old father of two has taught mariachi classes for more than two decades, but it wasn't until he received his master's degree in history from the University of Texas at San Antonio that he realized something was missing. 

His connection to this Mexican folk music never waned, and he soon found himself wanting to further explore music education so he could research mariachi, further the study of this tradition and develop resources for teachers. 

 "Music's always been my passion," said Torres. "However, when I started playing mariachi music, it became my soul mate."

Combined with a desire to educate and research at the highest level, a doctorate was the next logical pursuit.

UNT was his first-choice school because as a doctoral student in the College of Music and as a research assistant in the Division of Community Engagement, he could explore his interests in music education, ethnomusicology and community engagement simultaneously.

Sue Buratto, director of education at Bass Performance Hall, said it was his passion for those things that impressed the fellowship committee.

"We believe in this changing world that his commitment to world music, especially mariachi, and to those students who are underserved in our community can make a real difference," said Buratto.

Torres expects to graduate in 2016 and plans to continue researching and teaching mariachi to students and future teachers as a way to shed light on larger issues of multiculturalism and diversity awareness in education and academia.

About the Perry R. Bass Fellowship

Established in 2007, the Perry R. Bass Fellowship recognizes a student seeking a graduate degree in music. Students who apply should demonstrate excellence in their areas of performance or strong scholarly research in music education, with career aspirations in education. The fellowship provides funds of up to $5,000. Find details at http://www.basshall.com/childedawardsbass.html.

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