Music is a big part of South Texas culture. It’s more than the birthplace or home of legends ranging from Kris Kristofferson and Freddy Fender to Roberto Cantoral and Gloria Trevi; more than the site where Narciso Martinez originated the norteño genre which, with its associated Tejano and conjunto styles, has become a large part of Mexican culture. It also offers a unique amalgamation of English and Spanish styles, creating a musical culture as fully bilingual as the chatter we hear in local malls and school hallways.
It is therefore welcome and appropriate that the town of McAllen has been granted the designation of “Music Friendly Community” by the Texas Music Office, a department of the state government.
It’s a designation that the entire Rio Grande Valley can adopt, and other cities might also consider pursuing.
To earn designation, a community establishes a liaison between itself and the state; it may be part of the official city government, tourism or convention and visitor bureau. He hosts a music workshop sponsored by the state office and enrolls in the Texas Music Industry Directory. It also creates an advisory board with local music industry players, partners with non-profit organizations that promote music and cultural development, and collaborates with music education programs at local schools and colleges. .
Such pieces are in place all over the Valley, from music-related museums and exhibitions such as the Tejano Walk of Fame in Edinburgh to street festivals and weekly outdoor concerts in RV parks and markets at local chips. Schools in the valley, from the university to local high schools and colleges, have powerful bands, choirs and ensembles that have gained nationwide and even nationwide recognition. Special events, including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Guitar Festival and the Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival, round out and enrich the mix.
It’s one of the only places where school mariachi and estudiantinas are popular, and where even the coolest teenagers dance old cumbias and huapangos at weddings, quinceañeras, and other celebrations.
The valley’s unique musical culture deserves to be celebrated and promoted. It is one of the threads that unite the inhabitants and the generations. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that promoting music, including music programs in schools, can help improve children’s cognitive development and understanding of several subjects, including math.
Our music culture is unique and strong enough that an organized effort to embrace and promote it can make South Texas’ music offerings yet another way to attract visitors and performers.
Working with the Texas Music Office could help with these efforts. Using the office’s business referral network could also help local musicians make contacts that could help them follow in the footsteps of Grupo Mazz, Del Castillo and other commercially successful Valley natives.
The Rio Grande Valley has something special in the musical world. Local officials should consider following McAllen’s lead and joining the state in telling the world.