José Soto, Class of 2018

March 11, 2021
José Soto, LBC Music Specialist

Watch José's interview or read what he has to say below about his time at Sonoma State and his new career in working with young students to learn mariachi.

Alumni Spotlight: Jose Soto, Class of 2018

Today, I’m the music specialist at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, where I get to teach mariachi music and music fundamentals to group of about 80 kids during the school year. During the summer we focus on doing music summer camps and we go around the county to teach music. Our camps are 100% free and we provide, Instruments, instructions and food, with a final presentation for the parents and community at the end of every 3 weeks. Our programs take place in Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, and Sonoma, serving over 150 students during the summer. I graduate in 2018 with a degree of music education from Sonoma State.

While I was at Sonoma State, I got different opportunities, such as great master classes from many wonderful musicians from all around the world. You simply get so inspired and learn so much by listening and watching to perform professionals. After me having that experience at SSU, we try to have our kids get as many master classes as we can, having a theater at LBC provides that opportunity. They interact with many professional artists whom come to the center. 

The level of education at SSU is great! I love most of my teachers and even if I had a teacher who I did not like the teaching style, I still learn a lot from that experience. Now I make sure I always have another teacher supporting our programs and kids get to have options, one style won’t fit all. 

Concerts at SSU are very fun, and the preparation always makes you work for new goals. My last 2 years at SSU, our orchestra started doing concerts for kids and community in general; it took some time to get people, but we didn’t stop our goal to bring the community to be part of our concerts. On my last concerts we had so many new community members enjoying our music. I make sure our most advanced mariachi group gets to go out and play out in the community. Our mariachi plays at least 2 to 3 times a month in community events.

My advice for current students is for you to try your best because one day you will be the teacher or the musician on the big stage. While I was a student, I always wanted to be the best and that was not the case all the time, there we always better players then me and that frustrated me all the time, when I started working it was all about me and the education I was providing for my students. Your ideas to teach or playing the instrument will be the best tools for your future classes or stage. In order to get ideas, you have to stay involved in trainings, competitions, concerts and master classes, they will help you grow and motivate every time. All of these skills, you get them while you are a student, for me SSU was the place to get them. Always tray you best and you will accomplish all your music and life goals. 

Talk to your teachers and they will advise you to reach your goals. Talk to you teachers about your dreams, even if they are different than what they know or they teach you.

Here is my story, while taking a vocal meths classes with Dr. Lynne Morrow, she heard me sang and ask me what was my favorite style of music. I responded mariachi music, with a serious voice she responded “I want you to sing your piece once more, but do it the way you feel comfortable and using your style”. At the end of my piece, she still gave me constructive advice, but told me; just think you are doing mariachi music every time and it will sound beautiful. The fallowing semester she decided to a mariachi project for one of her classes where she asked me to help to provide music and teach some students the mariachi special instrumentation. Before that I had 13 years of experience playing mariachi music and I still learn so much from someone who did not know a lot about mariachi music, but knew so much about music in general. Our concert was a sold-out concert.

My LBC students were there and they had to do a concert report, many of them said, I want to see myself playing music on that same stage, to me that is the biggest accomplishment. If I did it, you can do it. Ask yourself what do you want to do with music and go talk to your teachers.


Luther Burbank Mariachi Ensemble Website

Luther Locals with Mariachi Cantares de Mi Tierra, LBC's own Mariachi Ensemble

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