Hispanic musical heritage evolving for students

By Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools, 10/21/21 12:32 PM

Hope High School band students Brenda Ventura and Jimmy Paredes agree that the cultural significance of Hispanic music remains important to Hispanic heritage, but some aspects of its traditions are being lost to modern trends. October concludes the recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. – Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools

HOPEHope High School seniors Brenda Ventura and Jimmy Paredes are typical of their generation; they like music, sports, friends and are both members of the Hope Bobcat Marching Band.

Music is significant to both Brenda and Jimmy because it is significant within the heritage of Hispanic culture, but for different reasons today than in previous generations, as Hispanic Heritage Month concludes this month.

Brenda, who performs in the percussion ensemble of the Bobcat Marching Band, admits she came to the HHS band program her sophomore for personal reasons.

“It was a boyfriend,” she said.

But, she stayed in band, in part, because of the significance of music in her family. Brenda, whose grandfather plays accordion, said both her parents have a deep appreciation for Hispanic music.

“While I was growing up, my parents, my mom in particular, would play all these songs,” she said. “Most of the singers were like Jose Jose or Juan Miguel, who had not just the talent but the raw emotion to sing these outstanding songs.”

A particular favorite of her father’s, “Cuando yo queria ser grande,” which translates to “When I wanted to be big,” is a series of flashbacks of the singer and his father.

At one point, he begs God to stop time because his father is getting older,” Brenda explains. He asks why most good things always find their end.”

Brenda said vocal artist Vincente Fernandez, “embodies the meaning of the song well with sheer emotion and it connects with whoever hears it.”

That aspect of Hispanic music has always been important, she said.

“Anyone who hears it can tell its raw emotion deeply being connected with the words,” Brenda said.

Dance also is significant in Hispanic musical heritage, she said.

“Bachata is the slow but steady rhythm and usually danced with a partner,” Brenda explains. “It is more of the romantic dancing style and is danced in close proximity to your partner.”

She admits to a generational difference in preference here.

“Not much of a fan of it but my parents liked playing the songs while doing chores,” Brenda added.

“Cumbias” are more upbeat, she said; danced with a partner they involve dramatic spins; whereas, “Reggaeton” is closer to modern hip-hop and rap.

“It is one of the more modern genres and is the type commonly played on radio, if it makes it to a number one hit,” Brenda said.

Traditional Hispanic dance and music is extremely colorful and somewhat formal with intricate costuming.

“I’ve never seen it in person but it is beautiful to see,” Brenda said. “This dance is to represent what Mexico is and the beauty of it.”

She does regret a growing loss of the traditional genres.

“A lot of Hispanic teenagers don’t learn about the music of their heritage and it ends up being lost,” Brenda said.

“I feel like it’s changing,” Brenda said. “It’s heading a different direction. I can see that every time there is new Hispanic music on the radio.”

She sees a “generation gap” that has shifted from what she terms “heartbreak” music to more rap and hip-hop themes.

“It’s not a bad thing; it’s just an evolution,” Brenda said.

A concurrent credit student at the University of Arkansas-Hope, Brenda is enrolled in Emergency Medical Technician coursework and plans to attend Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and continue to perform musically after graduation. She enjoys art and likes to explore color and technique variations in drawing and painting.

Jimmy, a trombone player, is a music veteran of the Hope bands program since the seventh grade.

“At first, it was just a class,” he said. “Then, I decided I needed to learn and improve.”

Jimmy is a Hope Collegiate Academy student at the University of Arkansas-Hope.

“The Hope Collegiate Academy will help me receive an associate’s degree when I graduate from high school this year,” he said.

Jimmy said between academics, band and a few outside activities, he is busy.

“I play in the local Sunday soccer league which is fun and entertaining,” he said. “I spend time with my family most of the time or with friends, but I do not really go out much, like to parties or travel much to other places.”

Jimmy said influences such as family members in church choir have solidified his appreciation of music generally and the influences of Hispanic music.

“I think it’s still important now,” he said. “My parents brought what they knew with them from Mexico, and we learned more about certain words and their meaning from the music.”