Cinco de Mayo gets a new beat
By BY MELISSA CROWE
May 1, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
Mariachi, ballet folklorico dancers and margaritas are synonymous with Cinco de Mayo, but what about drum lines?
Victoria's Cinco de Mayo celebration could see some new traditions forming at the hands of Justin Ramirez, a Victoria native and lifelong drummer.
Ramirez caught up with Get Out to talk about the community drum line, the pride of Stroman High School and (not) stomping the yard.
How long have you been drumming?
I picked up a set of sticks when I was 2 years old. My dad, Sonny Ramirez, has been a musician for 50 years. He's a Grammy Award winner with Pio Trevino y Majic back in 1988. He was brought up in Tejano music but is an all-around drummer and can play just about anything and everything.
Music was always around my life. Me and my uncle, George Cavazos, play in The Crystals, and my dad runs sound. We know a bunch of musicians and musicians know us.
Stroman High School was ranked third in the nation when you were in the drum line, what impact did that experience have on you?
I started off at Stroman playing football my ninth-grade year; then got out because I hurt my knee, and the Stroman football team was just not that good.
The band was the best thing around. I've never been the kind of person to read music, but I love all kinds of music. Until my son was born, music was my life. It was all I did.
The experience was a huge ego boost. The old drum line had it all. We were the third best in nationals and first in state. We had that pride for a long time. We won first drum line every contest we went to. I was a snare drummer.
My influences are Tony Royster Jr., who plays with Jay-Z; Dennis Chambers; Aaron Spears, who plays with Usher.
Aaron Holler is an amazing, amazing musician. He plays for Jay Perez, who's playing for Cinco de Mayo this year.
What's the connection with drumming and Cinco de Mayo?
I'm trying to figure that out, too. James Villafranca just thought it would be a cool idea - something different. I agree. It is something drastically different. He asked me to get it together. Music is very important to the Cinco de Mayo festival. That's why everyone celebrates it: for music.
So you're going to 'Stomp the Yard' like the movie?
No, no, no, no, no. Don't compare the traditional drum lines to the drum line movies. That is a big deal up in Atlanta and the southern states, but this is nothing like that. This is more traditional, more technical kind of drum line. A few of the guys play for Drum Corps International, so it's very technical. One is going for a music degree, Stephen Faulk.
How did this Cinco de Mayo drum line come about?
It's been a headache, but I have about 10 people. The guys I have are the best around here, hands down. These guys are tremendous, phenomenal drummers, and they've been doing it for a long time. They're all from Victoria, and two of the guys that are our bass drummers go to Edna High School and their band director, Josh Partida.
You can expect some of the old cadences from Stroman. Some of the new ones some of the crew has been working on and writing as we go. A lot of the stuff we put in our own perspective and wrote ourselves.
It's going to impact everybody. Just prepare for something different.