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“We believe Southern New Mexico, west Texas and Ciudad Juarez have the great potential to become a mecca for the arts because of their unique cultures, immense diversity and various perspectives,” said Las Cruces musician and arts advocate Erik Maese. “we want to open the doors for opportunities by creating those opportunities.”
Maese and Jorge Martinez-Rios, associate professor in the New Mexico State University Music Department, founded Borderland Arts Foundation (BAF) earlier this year to accomplish those goals.
In collaboration with New Horizons Orchestra of Las Cruces, BAF is sponsoring the Summer Chamber Music Festival, which has performances at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St.; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, at First Presbyterian Church, 200 E. Boutz Road.
Tickets to the Aug. 11 performance at RGT are $15. The Aug. 13 concert at First Presbyterian Church is free, but a donation of $15 is requested.
The 30-member string orchestra that will perform at both concerts comprises musicians from Las Cruces, El Paso, Juarez and other regional orchestras, and will be conducted by Martinez-Rios, who is conductor of the NMSU Philharmonic and principal violinist in the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra.
The concerts will include performances of “On the Nature of Daylight,” by Max Richter (1966- ), German-born British composer and pianist; “St. Paul’s Suite,” by British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934); “Adagio for Strings,” by American composer, pianist and conductor Samuel Barber (1910-81); and “Serenade for Strings,” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93).
BAF was founded to “keep talent local,” Martinez-Rios said, and to give local musicians – professionals, community members and students at NMSU and local schools – more opportunities to perform the chamber music they love. BAF will also sponsor opera and ballet, and its Savor the Music program engages local chefs to “create menus inspired by the music we program,” Maese said.
BAF was also created to address “the lack of high-caliber artistic events that represent the diversity of the area,” said Maese, BAF president and CEO.
The foundation also will provide educational opportunities, including music lessons, for K-12 music students regardless of their ability to pay, said Maese, who has been playing the violin since age 10, thanks to an inspirational elementary-school teacher and other “really strong teachers in Las Cruces Public Schools.”
“Through private donations, sponsorships, and grants we look forward to ensuring no one is turned away due to financial limitations,” he said.
“I’ve always been a huge advocate for the arts,” Maese said. “We believe in cultivating the talent here and creating the opportunities here.”
For NMSU students, BAF concerts are “an opportunity to perform with very high caliber musicians,” said Maese, a native of Las Cruces who recently returned here after 11 years in Albuquerque.
That’s because BAF is bringing nationally and internationally known performers to Las Cruces and the region. Martinez-Rios said, including operatic soprano Barbara Padilla, whose recent concert in Juarez was sold out, and Korean-born violinist Mari Lee.
“’We can feel people genuinely care for the arts in this region,’” is what visiting artists tell him, Martinez-Rios said. “They say it’s a treat to visit Las Cruces. That’s really nice to hear.”
Another goal of the foundation is to perform the music of composers from throughout the border region, including Latin American and female composers, said Martinez-Rios, who has performed with orchestras in the United States and Mexico, was a featured artist on a Latin Grammy-winning recording and was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2022. He was named “one of the most important young artists today” by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
“You don’t see a lot of people who look like us who are represented in the music we play,” Maese said.
And, BAF wants to play pieces by local composers as well, and “cultivate that talent,” said Martinez-Rios, who is also a composer.
Martinez-Rios said he, Maese and others have “knocked on so many doors” in the past four years to lay the groundwork for BAF and the performances it sponsors.
“The response has been incredible,” he said.
“I wanted to give back to this community I love,” Maese said.
Contact Maese at email@example.com. Contact Martinez-Rios at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit borderlandartsfoundation.org.