The La Catrina String Quartet

April 24, 2017 raguirre


They’ve debuted at Carnegie Hall, won a Latin Grammy for Best Classical Album, and have been hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as “wonderful ambassadors for music”—and they live right here in Las Cruces.

The La Catrina Quartet is a string quartet made up of four tenure track faculty members at New Mexico State University. The group appeals to multi-cultural audiences for their unique balance of core Latin American repertoire with American and European classical traditions. Since forming in 2006, they’ve gained international notoriety touring in Germany, Switzerland, Japan, the United Kingdom, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico. They’ve also played all over the United States at prestigious concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall and Symphony Space in New York City, Chicago Center for the Arts, the World Series in Seattle, and Schoenberg Hall at UCLA, to name just a few.

“What I enjoy about performing together is the artistry that each player brings to the performance,” says viola player Jorge Martínez-Ríos. “I also enjoy connecting with audiences and seeing how they relate to the repertoire we perform. A perfect performance for me is when the audience knows what they are listening to and appreciate it as a first-rate event.”

For concert goers that want to get the most out of a La Catrina performance, or any other musical concert for that matter, Jorge suggests studying up a bit on the composer’s background, work, and context. If busy schedules don’t allow for that, he recommends just “feeling the music.” He says, “Listen to the piece several times and it will undoubtedly grow on you for a better understanding. After a while, you will become knowledgeable and experience music on a deeper level.”

Stay tuned for La Catrina Quartet’s upcoming Tuba Quintets CD in collaboration with professor Jim Shearer and a Latin music CD under IBS Classical Recording Company in Spain. They’ll also be heading out for tour soon in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile.

When they’re not performing, the four professors run the string program and the university symphony within
NMSU’s Department of Music. They are also engaged in community outreach and recruiting programs for NMSU. Jorge adds that his ideal performance also includes playing for young kids that have never been exposed to this type of music. He says, “Seeing their happy and surprised faces is priceless.”

What’s In A Name?
“La Catrina—also known as death—can show herself in many different ways. We believe that death, and specifically the memory of our “fieles difuntos” (faithful deceased) gives us a strong sense of identity and rootedness in our culture. This conspicuous—and perennial—guest is paradoxically also associated with the joy of life in the face of the imminence and inevitability of death. We only live once and La Catrina, with her mischievous smile, pleads with us to seize the moment and through music—and perhaps a little dance—find life’s meaning.”

To learn more about these fascinating and talented musicians, visit


quartetDaniel Vega-Albela
Instrument: Violin
Born In: Mexico City, Mexico

Education: Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance, Mannes College of Music; Master of Violin Performance, Western Michigan University; Master of Chamber Music, Kent State University

Played With: St. Cecilia Chamber Orchestra; Western New York Chamber Players; Orquesta de Cámara de Morelos; Camerata de Torreón; Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería; Ensamble de las Rosas

Fun Fact: Daniel is featured in the 2004 and 2005 edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

Simón Gollo
Instrument: Violin
Heritage: Swiss-Venezuelan

Education: Conservatoire de Musique de Geneve, Switzerland and the Conservatoire Superieur et Academie de Musique Tibor Varga in Sion, Switzerland

Played With/At: Chamber Society of Philadelphia; 92Y-Kaufmann Concert Hall; Chamber Music Society of Detroit, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; Bolívar Hall in London; Teatro Teresa Carreño in Venezuela

Fun Fact: Simón keeps a very busy teaching schedule which includes invitations to teach masterclasses around the world. He is regularly invited to teach at the Julliard School of Music in New York.

Jorge Martínez-Ríos
Instrument: Viola
Born In: Torreón, Mexico

Education: Studied viola at the Conservatorio de las Rosas, where he graduated with honors under the tutelage of professor Gela Dubrova.

Played With/At: Meany Hall’s World Series in Seattle; Chicago Center for the Arts; Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City; Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería; Camerata de Coahuila; Orquesta de Cámara de Michoacán; Western Piedmont Symphony; Las Cruces Symphony

Fun Fact: Jorge was invited by CONACULTA (National Council for Culture and Art in Mexico) to record chamber works of José Pablo Moncayo, including a string trio and the sonata for viola and piano with acclaimed Mexican pianist Guadalupe Parrondo.

Jorge Espinoza
Instrument: Cello
Born In: Chile

Education: Graduate Performance Diploma in Violoncello and Graduate Performance Diploma in Chamber Music, Peabody Conservatory of Music; Graduated with honors from Universidad Católica de Chile; Master’s Degree in Music Performance, Carnegie Mellon University

Played With/At: Kennedy Center with the National Symphony; Carnegie Hall; Lincoln Center; Symphony Hall. He has been a featured soloist and chamber musician, performing concertos, solo, and chamber music recitals throughout South America, the United States, Europe, and Mexico

Fun Fact: Jorge’s love for the cello began at the age of five. While living in Argentina, his father brought him to attend a cello recital. During the performance, Jorge suddenly walked up onstage by himself and stood directly in front of the soloist, captivated by the sounds produced by this beautiful instrument.

The post The La Catrina String Quartet appeared first on Las Cruces Magazine.

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