Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alex J. Chávez

Alex J. Chávez was born two miles east of Capulin, Colo., on November 9 (1922 according to his obituary, 1923 as noted on his album covers). He attended La Jara High School - six years ahead of Dorthy Sowards

After graduation, he would spend World War II serving three years in the United States Army, with the Seventh Army Headquarters.

Upon return to the United States, he attended the University of DePaul in Chicago, and received his Master's Degree in music from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Accompanied by his second wife Virginia ("Ginger") Stoudt Chávez (whom he married 1954), he moved to New Mexico, and began teaching choral music in the Albuquerque ISD, including Sandia High School.

As a regular at the Three Cities of Spain restaurant in Santa Fe, and the New Mexico Folklore Society, he would entertain audiences with the Mexican-American folk songs of his upbringing in the San Luis Valley.

In 1965 he financed and recorded his first LP, El Testamento - Spanish Folk Music of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado (Century Custom Records 22376), a collection of 14 traditional songs of the region.


"I believe this song to have originated in the San Luis Valley; specifically southern Colorado, because this is an area in which it is the most familiar to the people; also because researchers dealing with Spanish music of New Mexico origin do not number this among their collections." - El Testamento liner notes.

During this period of his life, Chávez would go on to perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., as well as the Scottsdale Folk Festival - he also earned the coveted National Folk Association Burl Ives Award.

Leaving the Albuquerque School District, he took a position as the Assistant Professor of the Music Department at the University of New Mexico. In 1971 he recorded his second LP, Duermete Nino (Custom 39908). Pictured with two of his children and his wife Virginia on the album cover, his second effort has more of a family feel, with play songs and lullabies.


Chávez and his wife Virginia often appeared together during performances. Virginia Chávez , who was an English and speech major, would provide narrative background and translation during her husband's concerts.

Chávez, who fathered eight daughters and two sons, would retire to Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1997. He remained active in his church choir.

He died June 20, 2007. He was 84.

El Testamento - Spanish Folk Music of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado has been recently remastered and made available on compact disc, through the University of New Mexico.

COMING NEXT POST: Norbie Larsen

2 comments:

  1. Alex Chavez was my choir teacher and friend at Sandia High School in Albuquerque, NM, 1962-66. He had a great influence on my love of music and even today the music we sang then includes many of my favorites. Although I had an electric guitar, he often loaned me his Martin acoustic guitar to perform at the school and elsewhere. It was a privledge to know him and I think of him often. Tom Jemison, Littleton, CO

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  2. Yes, I too was very fond of Mr. Chavez during my years at Sandia 68-71. I remember singing in The Continental's and doing Onconglomeration those three years and making Honor Choir along with NM Allstate Choir. What memories I have of my favorite high school music teacher.

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