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Joining the Mariachi Band Leads Elyssa Williams to Explore New Talents

11.22.2023 | By: Valerie Spears
Elyssa Williams holds a guitarron

Elyssa Williams, senior music education major, has gone from being a vocalist to a multi-talented performer thanks to the opportunities she's received at Texas Wesleyan University. From singing church and classical music to playing piano and strumming the guitarrón, Williams has expanded her musical artistry. 

The small class sizes and tight-knit community of Texas Wesleyan’s music department, coupled with the vast amount of vocal and instrumental groups offered, allows students to get outside their comfort zone and learn new skills. This led Williams to “accidentally join the mariachi band.”  

As a student worker for the department, she’s tasked with helping coordinate all the different programs and ensuring that they have all the equipment they need. One day, Williams was bringing an instrument to a student when she saw Mariachi Oro Azul practicing. She asked to sit in on the practice, and by the time it was over, was ready to join.  

She asked the mariachi’s director Ramon Niño if she could join as a vocalist. However, Niño told her that everyone in the mariachi band has to play an instrument and encouraged her to join and learn the guitarrón — the six-string bass guitar.  

“I was like, that's cool, I guess I'm joining. It's fun,” she smiled. “I'm coming up on a year of playing, and it's so crazy to think because in the beginning, I didn't even know how to pluck the strings. Now I'm doing the double string technique and not just playing one string at a time.”  

Williams was able to join the band at the Mariachi Spectacular in Albuquerque, New Mexico over the summer, learning from professionals how to play the instruments and become a stronger vocalist.  

“I learned from so many professionals. It was a great experience,” she said.  

In addition to learning the guitarrón, Williams started learning the piano when she became a student at Texas Wesleyan. She’s also learned about various instruments in the instrumental methods for vocal majors' class, which exposed her to a new instrument every few weeks.  

However, it wasn’t just the different offerings that Texas Wesleyan provided that attracted her to the school. Williams said that she immediately knew the university was the right place for her when she walked into her audition.  

“When I came and toured and auditioned, there were so many students in the music hallway, and they were so friendly. I could feel the family feel, and it solidified it right then,” she said.  

Williams says that being a teacher wasn’t her first career choice, as she saw some of the struggles teachers face first-hand since her mom is a teacher. But during her senior year of high school, she assisted her choir director and realized being a music teacher was her calling. 

“I ended up being another teacher for the students, and I fell in love with that,” she said. "I love working with students, being that mentor for them and being that person that they can count on.”  

She’s excited to graduate and get into the classroom, taking with her the experiences she had at Texas Wesleyan and sharing them with her students. 

Through her own experiences with teachers and mentors, Williams understands the importance of helping shape the next generation. With a dash of laughter, a sprinkle of melodies and a whole lot of determination, Williams is ready to inspire the next generation of musicians, bringing the joy of music into their lives just as Texas Wesleyan University has done for her. 

Williams also recently became a semi-finalist in 2023 Texhoma NATS Competition. Congratulations!