Jose Luis Hernandez is one of the founding fathers of S.O.Y Mariachi. (Jessica Palmer Photo)
José Luis Hernandez is the soul of patience. He waited patiently as this reporter finished writing a quote. It is this is the same patience he uses when he instructs children at S.O.Y. Mariachi. He teaches guitar and vocals to all ages, all groups, from beginners to advanced students.
Hernandez is one of the founders of S.O.Y. Mariachi, along with Paul Fresquez, Edubina Morales and Bobby Villages. He is the one who came up with the name, S.O.Y., that stands for Save Our Youth. The goal is to help today’s youth and encourage the six pillars of Character Counts.
Hernandez is an accomplished musician. He plays the bajo sexto, a stringed instrument with 12 strings in double courses used in Norteño music; the vihuela, a small guitar which is used almost exclusively in mariachi music; and the electric base. He is learning to play the accordion, although he confesses he hasn’t developed confidence with the instrument.
He has played with a number of different bands. Two are Impacto Norteño and Los Amigos de Pueblo.
He said with due modesty that once a person has learned how to play the guitar that the rest of the stringed instruments are easy to pick up. Others might disagree. In the near future, Hernandez plans to do studio recordings.
In addition, he plays romantic trio music from Mexico and Gospel. He played during church services at St. John’s Church for 16 years. This experience is part of his inspiration for S.O.Y. Mariachi because he wanted to train new musicians to play at the church.
Teaching is another of his skills.
“I like to teach. Kids are fresh minds. If you teach them good things, they learn good things,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez speaks of watching his students blossom as their confidence grows. He sees the difference between the students during their first year and their third year. The difference is not only in musical skill, it is attitude.
“At first they are scared. They are afraid of making mistakes, and then they see me make a mistake, and they realize making a mistake is not so bad.”
Mistakes he views as part of the learning process. Once a student learns that mistakes are not the end of the world, their confidence grows.
“It also helps them understand adults who also can make mistakes.”
He says S.O.Y. Mariachi trains students to work as a part of a team because the band is a team and they learn how to respect each other. Some of the students stick with it; others move on to other things, going to college and continuing their education in other ways, but the life lessons remain.
Some students remain devoted to the music. One student is starting an all-girl mariachi band.
“I tell them to never stop dreaming. There are always things you can be working on,” says Hernandez.
He also gives credit to the parents who bring the students to the classes.
In his time with S.O.Y. Mariachi, Hernandez has taught three generations of students.
Hernandez was born in Monterrey, the capital city of Nuevo León, in Mexico. He received a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Nuevo León. Even before he graduated, Hernandez received a job offer from Numex Plastics in Roswell.
He came here in 1984 to take the job. He has worked at Numex Plastics for the past 29 years and now holds the position of production manager.
He likes the small-town atmosphere of Roswell and believes a person can find everything they need here. “Monterrey is too big. It can take four hours to get someplace.”
He has created a family and a life within the city and contributed to the Roswell’s youth through his work with S.O.Y. Mariachi. He saw a need and helped to fill it.
His wife is Carmen. Hernandez has three stepsons and four grandchildren. He named them with pride. “Luis Alfredo goes to Mesa Middle School. Lorenzo Saul and Mercedes both attend Missouri Elementary while Sebastian goes to Valley Christian Academy.”
His devotion to music extends to his hobbies. Hernandez collects LPs (albums) and different kinds of tapes. “Music stimulates your brain. You have to memorize everything. We don’t carry stands and papers when you play.”
Hernandez also recognizes the emotional value of music. “When I listen…always try to feel what the musician is feeling.”
The students will be performing for family and friends next Tuesday, starting around 6 p.m. at S.O.Y. Mariachi, 1120 S. Grand Ave. He invited the public to attend.