By Arleeny Escarcega
David Lopez is leaving Santa Ana College and the music department on a high note.
Although he’s not officially retiring until June 2017, this fall will be the first semester in 22 years that he won’t be teaching.
Lopez anticipates retiring so he can spend more time with his family and focus on his health. He also looks forward to “decompressing,” something that he hasn’t had time to do because of the long hours he dedicated to the program.
“When you teach and you’re full-time and committed to a program like this, you basically sacrifice your social life and that includes your family,” said Lopez.
Music has been a part of Lopez’s life from a young age. Growing up in Arizona, he was a multi-instrumentalist in grade school, and formed a band with his brothers and sisters.
After high school he had trouble choosing a major. He chose to focus on what was familiar to him and majored in music at the University of Arizona.
“I’ve also been kind of an emotional person and music has helped me process a lot of that,” he said.
When Lopez first started working at SAC in fall 1993, the music program was small. There was only a jazz band with professional players. He dedicated his time and effort toward starting the Latin Jazz Band, a woodwinds class and other ensembles. Not long after, a concert band and a mariachi group were formed.
“I got several people coming up to me saying, ‘Why don’t we do a mariachi band?’ I was open to that because if we figure out where the interest lies within the student body, that’s going to make our jobs a lot easier,” Lopez said.
Lopez didn’t grow up listening to mariachi music, so starting the program was challenging. It began as an instrumental ensemble, and when it had enough students the curriculum was rewritten to focus on mariachi music from Jalisco, Mexico. Members now play songs from different regions of the country.
“He always kept the feeling of camaraderie alive. Teachers like professor Lopez really inspire me and are very supportive,” Lopez’s former student Anastasia Sullivan said.
Don Mariachi later went on to stage 45-minute mariachi concerts at Phillips Hall. Lopez has received a lot of positive feedback on the program.
“People’s souls are just entrenched to the music. It’s kind of a beautiful thing to see,” he said.
Ernesto Viramontes will be the new director of the mariachi program next year. Viramontes was one of Lopez’s first mariachi students and showed a lot of interest in playing the music.
“To see the students struggle and succeed, being a part of that whole process, I’ll miss that,” Lopez said.
He is especially looking forward to taking advantage of a recently completed project he has been working on since 2007— building his dream house in Arizona. Lopez designed and built glass block angels that adorn the doors. Smaller projects he has lined up include refurbishing the inside of the house, planting bushes around his home, and other cosmetic projects.
“Everywhere you go in the house, there are beautiful views. It’s so soothing, really spiritual and relaxing,” he said.