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Mariachi: An Art Form Handed Down Through Generations

Mariachi Pumas Expand Ensemble

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we highlight University of Houston’s very own Jose Longoria. As the Director of the Mariachi Pumas, Mr. Longoria brings tradition and passion into the development and cultivation of our mariachi program.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Longoria is a third-generation mariachi, who has been performing since the age of seven. His father, Adrian Longoria, immigrated to Houston in the early 1970s making a living as a butcher, construction worker and mariachi. In the 1980s, Adrian Longoria founded Mariachi Imperial, an incredibly talented band made of many professional musicians and performers. After graduating high school, Jose Longoria inherited the band at his father’s request. Mariachi Imperial went on to perform in Thailand, Beijing, Shanghai, India, Macedonia, Albania, Armenia, and Canada. Mariachi Imperial connected with their audience by learning and performing songs in a country’s native language.

“It just shows you how important it is, music is a bridge that unites people,” remarked Longoria.

Mariachi Imperial recently finished recording their fourth album titled Recibe Hasta el Cielo. Longoria continues to honor his family’s heritage by being the proud parent of a fourth-generation Mariachi, as well as bringing the pedagogy of Mariachi music to our schools’ classrooms.

Growing up as a student in the Houston area, Longoria had always wanted to become a music teacher. After earning his bachelor’s in education at the University of Houston-Downtown, he began his career in education as a mathematics teacher at Patrick Henry Middle School while being actively involved with Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA).

During his first year of teaching at the middle school, word quickly got around that Longoria was a mariachi. He was soon approached by the district with the idea to curate the first Mariachi Program within Patrick Henry Middle School, and Longoria met with the principal to start the process.

Enrollment in Longoria’s mariachi program ballooned, and he began to work with Sam Houston High School to create a mariachi program there. Today, Jose Longoria leads the mariachi bands at both campuses, with enrollment reaching over 240 students. He is grateful for the support of the community and the administration, which has allowed him to foster these programs at both schools.

Jose Longoria acknowledged Provost Paula Short, Susie Molina, Director of Community Relations for the University of Houston, former Board of Regents member, Paula Mendoza, and Dean Andrew Davis, of the Katherine G. McGovern College of the Arts, as the catalysts behind the Mariachi Pumas at the University of Houston.

Longoria recounted that Dean Davis’s invitation to apply to be the Director of the Mariachi Pumas was, “… my dream come true.” Before long, Longoria was offered the position and he very happily accepted. 

Longoria expressed that “being part of the University of Houston is huge ,UH is loved by everyone, and I feel so honored.”

He values the chance to demonstrate that “Mariachi isn’t limited to anyone, that it is inclusive.” He takes pride in continuing the legacy.

Longoria added that the Mariachi suit is an additional component of the legacy it represents. Its color and design stand for the values of UH, as well as Hispanic folklore. He shared, “Man! It was so cool to be able to do that,” as he explained the process of his suit design. 

Longoria is grateful for the University’s support in providing valuable opportunities for its student musicians.  Additionally, he relishes his own opportunity to be a part of the education of his students who represent this exemplary institution. Longoria takes pride in the Pumas and acknowledges how fortunate he is to compose and write music, and pass  his expertise on to his talented students.

When asked what was next for him, Longoria responded, “That’s a very important question. My goal is to prepare students to teach Mariachi.” He aims to create a groundwork of professionals who understand mariachi and its art form.

Longoria expressed the growing demand for mariachi educators in the Houston area and across the state of Texas, and he wants to continue to be an influential leader in building a community of music professionals who will meet that demand.