Music doctoral student awarded prestigious fellowship to study mariachi in Mexico

Music doctoral student awarded prestigious fellowship to study mariachi in Mexico

Music doctoral student awarded prestigious fellowship to study mariachi in Mexico
January 24
23:51 2018

College of Music doctoral student José R. Torres-Ramos has received the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship to study mariachi in Mexico for a year. He is the first UNT Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology to earn this fellowship.

Torres-Ramos, a 48-year-old San Antonio native, began playing mariachi in high school. He went on to become a music teacher at the middle and high school levels and is now in his fifth year at UNT for his doctorate in ethnomusicology, which is the study of music from different cultures, especially non-Western cultures.

Torres-Ramos will spend the next year in Mexico City and Guadalajara to study the origins of mariachi music, as well as modern mariachi and the industry behind it.

“I’m basically looking at Mexican machismo as an ingredient of masculinity in music and the perception of authentic Mexican music,” Torres-Ramos said. “I will be gathering data, analyzing and writing. Then when I come back I’ll look more at the data and then write my dissertation.”
Torres-Ramos found out he received the Fulbright-Hays in September and spent the fall finishing up courses and preparing for the year-long trip. He began his research in Mexico in January 2018.

JoséŽ R. Torres-Ramos performs at the UNT Global Unity Concert in 2016. Torres-Ramos is currently studying mariachi in Mexico as a Fulbright recipient. Courtesy JosŽé R. Torres-Ramos

Steven Friedson, University Distinguished Research Professor of Music and Anthropology and head of the ethnomusicology program, spoke about this relatively new area of study at UNT.

“Ethnomusicology, when I first started, was more and still focused on the music of Africa, India…non-western music,” Friedson said. “In short, it’s understanding music as an experience that happens amongst people both listening and performing.”

The Fulbright-Hays Fellowship program is sponsored by the Department of Education and provides grants to colleges and universities in order to fund individual doctoral students to conduct research in other countries for periods of six to 12 months.

The projects funded by Fulbright-Hays are meant to “deepen research knowledge on and help the nation develop capability in areas of the world not generally included in U.S. curricula.” The program, which was created by the late Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright in the 1940s, does not fund projects focusing on Western Europe.

UNT’s Fulbright Program Advisor Amanda Bennett explained some of the process applicants must go through in order to be considered for the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship.
“As part of their application, students include an application form, Fulbright-Hays foreign language reference form, three Fulbright-Hays graduate student reference forms, all transcripts since high school, a written project narrative and any other required application materials,” Bennett said. “Students submit all required applicant materials to the project director who submits all student applications as well as required forms or additional information on behalf of the institution.”

Friedson himself received the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship in 1986.

“[The ethnomusicology doctoral degree] is relatively new and [Torres-Ramos] was our very first doctoral student,” Friedson said. “For our very first doctoral student to get the most prestigious grant you can get, that was very exciting for us and for him. I think it says something about our program and is just kind of a validation of the work he does, which I think is impressive.”

Featured Image: José R. Torres-Ramos, second from left, listens at a meeting at Comisi—n MŽéxico-Estados Unidos para el Intercambio Educativo y Cultural, an event for Fulbright scholars in Mexico to network and share research. Torres-Ramos is currently studying mariachi in Mexico as a Fulbright recipient. Courtesy COMEXUS

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Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel has been a staff writer for the North Texas Daily since September 2017.

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