Adan Alonso: Mentors and Music Keep Sophomore in Tune
The first time Adan Alonso, a sophomore at California State University, Dominguez Hills saw the Latino-themed Christmas musical “La Posada Mágica” (A Magical Journey), he didn’t know what to expect. The second and third time Alonso saw the play performed with the musical score composed by Chicana/o studies professor Marcos Loya, he understood the power that music has over people.
“There is a moment in ‘La Posada Magica’ when the main character, Gracie, is mourning for her deceased brother, before the end of the first act, and at that moment she is on stage with a spotlight on her,” says Alonso. “The music that Marcos plays creates the mood and builds the tension that the audience and I feel. It’s very powerful and without the music, that moment would lose much of its impact.”
His revelation at “La Posada Mágica” about the power of music partially inspired Alonso, who has also been a musician from an early age, to combine his interests in music and his major, Chicana/o studies. He believes music is one way to better understand heritage and the connections that different groups of people have in common. His ultimate academic goal is to get a doctorate in ethnomusicology, the study of the cultural context of music.
“I want to be known as a scholar and not as the guy who plays the bass,” says Alonso, who wishes some day to have students look up to him in the way that he looks up to Loya and Dr. Irene Vasquez, chair and professor of Chicana/o studies. “They are the type of mentors that I would like to be to somebody else. They are excellent role models and are always glad to work with everyone.”
Vasquez has helped Alonso find his academic niche by encouraging him to apply to the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program, to which he was accepted last semester. Loya, on the other hand, helped Alonso reconnect with his passion for music by inviting him to play bass for El ConjunToro, a CSU Dominguez Hills music group that plays traditional Latin music for such events as the Dolores Huerta Graduation Celebration and the Cesar Chavez Tardeada. Other members of El ConjunToro include students Jacqueline Estrada who sings and Ricco Garrett on percussion. Loya, who plays the guitar and accordion is joined by colleague Miguel Gutierrez, a lecturer in Chicana/o studies, who plays the guitar.
Alonso says that one of the most gratifying experiences he has had so far in college is being able to play for CSU Dominguez Hills President Mildred García during a welcome reception at the Carson Community Center where she was given the key to the city.
“I kept asking myself, ‘How many students get to do something like this?’” he says, “How many students get so involved to the point were the president is personally asking for their group [to perform]? I really valued that experience of being able to perform for Dr. García and for the community and - I wouldn’t call it stand as an equal, but to be invited by these two musicians [Loya and Gutierrez] to participate, to play music with them, was an awesome feeling.”
In addition to his involvement with El ConjunToro, Alonso is the secretary for the Dominguez Hills chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), the Chicana/o Studies Association. Alonso says groups like MEChA have enhanced his people skills.
“A club or organization can really be an outlet for you to do something that you love,” he says, “whether it’s community service or organizing some kind of event. It’s really a way to find other people that love what you do, or [who] share the same interests.”
Alonso emphasizes that his experiences at CSU Dominguez Hills have made him more open-minded. Working with people from different backgrounds, like Africana studies professor Dr. Munashe Furusa, has shown Alonso the importance of knowing where he comes from.
“I didn’t understand what the term Chicano was,” he says. “I thought it was something negative.”
However, meeting people with differing perspectives like Vasquez, Loya, and Furusa, among many others, has shown Alonso that “we may not be the same color or not even from the same region of the world but we are fighting the same struggles.”
Alonso says that his sister Karla Alonso (Class of ’06, B.A., history) went through these struggles alone. She was the first in the family to go to college, attending Los Angeles Trade Technical Community College and then CSU Dominguez Hills, where she found out about the McNair Scholars program. She is now pursuing her doctorate in history at Arizona State University. She has been a role model for Alonso in her pursuit of higher education and encouraged him to do more than he imagined he could.
“She is the reason that I am here,” he says. “She’s been paving [the way] for me for a while now.”
- Perla Villegas