New course explores history of Mexican music

The rich history of Mexican music — from the start of the Aztec Empire to the Spanish conquest of Mexico to present day — has largely been absent from most American music programs. Until now.

This fall, Raul Dominguez, assistant professor and director of choral activities, is teaching Mexican Music: Identity and Purpose, the newest Regis Department of Music course.

As part of the course, students will learn the history of Mexican music, focusing on music made before and after the Spanish conquest.

Dominguez knows from experience just how little attention music programs dedicate to Mexican music. During his music education, he was never offered a course that focused on the culture’s music. As a choir member, Dominguez never sang Mexican choral music, other than when he programmed it himself. 

“In my master's, I decided that I would do, for my graduate conducting recital, a recital on Mexican choir music,” Dominguez said. “I started looking around and I couldn't find any, but I knew it existed."

Dominguez spent the next year of his program searching for documentation of the choral music. And when he worked on his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Colorado Boulder, only one of the professors who served on his final comprehension exam panel had expertise in the music of Latin, Central and South America.

“So, this course really stems from a lot of my research that I've been doing since 2018,” Dominguez said. “And so now I'm looking to bring some of my offerings or some of what I've learned and found to students at Regis, whether they are musicians or non-musicians.”

As part of the course, students will learn how the music interacts with history. Students will begin by learning how to listen to concertized music, or the way music would be performed on a concert stage in the past, from concerts at cathedrals to operas. Part of the goal is to help students develop a vocabulary for speaking about music. Later in the class, they’ll learn how to identify how sounds progressed over events in Mexican history.

“What happens when music reacts to controversial events ” from the highest levels of government? Dominguez asked. “Why did this music look back at Indigenous material and utilize that? What happens when Indigenous materials aren’t compliant with the European counterpoint when they first conquer this region?”

Dominguez said the course and performance are especially significant since Regis recently became a Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal designation that denotes that a university’s student enrollment is more than 25 percent Hispanic.

“My hope is that we bridge this gap that still exists,” Dominguez said. The music exists, “yet our music remains absent on concert stages and remains absent in programs and honor groups that we do around the country.”

In the spring, the music program will welcome Mariachi Alma del Folklore to campus for the Spring 2024 concert series showcasing the heritage of Mexican music.