Hometown superstar

Dec. 2—details

—Mariachi Christmas 2022

—7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2

—Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St.

—Tickets are $25 to $45; 505-988-1234; lensic.org

When Española native Santiago Alberto takes the stage at the Lensic Performing Arts Center for the first time, it will be as a singer, with backing by Mariachi Herencia de Las Vegas.

It won't be apparent to audience members that the recording artist is fluent in every mariachi instrument — guitarrón, vihuela Mexicana, harp, guitar, violin, and trumpet — as well as numerous others.

"Technically speaking, if I were able to clone myself, I could make a full band to accompany myself, and it would sound pretty good," Alberto says, laughing. That's no disrespect to Mariachi Herencia, which is from Las Vegas in Southern Nevada and also will perform independently at the show. Rather, it's an acknowledgement of the 30-year-old's evolving musical


Alberto will perform a mix of holiday songs, self-penned tunes, and mariachi favorites when he takes the stage as part of Mariachi Christmas 2022. Also appearing are Mariachi Euforia, Baile Ilusión, and Mrs. C's Children's Choir.

Alberto has lived for several years in the Los Angeles area, where he is the musical director for the Mariachi Rams, a band that performs on the field at every Los Angeles Rams home game. As he returns to New Mexico, he knows to prepare himself for a night of singing.

"My body has acclimated to the weather" in Southern California, he says. "When musicians go to perform in New Mexico, they're always very careful about their voices, because the climate is so dry that their voices get tired a little faster. I know people in L.A. who go do [singing] workshops and conferences in New Mexico. They always come back losing their voices."

Alberto knows better and uses a not-so-secret weapon while in New Mexico: a humidifier. Sleep also is vital to a good vocal performance, he says.

"My mom's going to make me some good homemade enchiladas, and I think that's going to be the fuel that helps me do a great show," he says. His mother, Angel Espinoza, is a noted singer, and his father, James Espinoza, is an artist and actor with television credits dating to 1972. More recently, he had a speaking role as a bartender in a season 3 episode of Breaking Bad.

About mariachi

Mariachi music's origins can be traced to the Jalisco region of Mexico in the 1800s. It's performed by sharply and distinctively dressed musicians, and the sounds come from singing, guitarrón (a large acoustic bass), vihuela Mexicana (rhythm guitar), harp, guitar, violin, and trumpet.

Alberto has released two albums, Encantado and Con Amor. Both can be heard at his website, santiagoalbertooficial.com. He estimates that he plays about half the instruments featured on his albums. He also writes arrangements, both for his work and the Mariachi Rams, and mixes, masters, and produces his songs.

He's constantly learning as a producer, he says. Music production involves shaping the sound created by an artist, and Alberto says one of the key challenges is ensuring he doesn't add too many flourishes or layers.

His mother was in a band when he was a child, he says, and he listened with a critical ear.

"So since I was a baby, I would always hear band rehearsals in our house," he says. "And there's a funny story when I was about 4 years old, my mom was looking for a drummer, and they had some different drummers coming to the house to audition. And as a little kid, I could tell which drummers were the good ones and which ones weren't so good. I stepped in once, and I was trying to tell the drummer what to do because I knew how it was supposed to sound. He just looked at me, like, 'Well, then, you play!'"

In addition to a household full of music, Northern New Mexico's cultural diversity played a key role in shaping his perception and enjoyment of sound.

"You're exposed to a lot of different cultures, and no one else in the world would hear that combination of cultures," he says. "So, as a kid, Ohkay Owingeh was just a couple of miles north. And then you go south and you have Santa Clara Pueblo and Tesuque. My family would always go watch the Native American dances, and we had a lot of friends who would participate. So I was exposed to Native American music as a little kid, and then we'd hear all the mariachis come for the fiestas."

That personal history is reflected in "Me Nace Del Corazón," the opening track on Encantado.

"It starts with Native drums, and then I slowly bring the mariachi in, as if you're time traveling within one song," Alberto says. "So you're hearing music from ancient times and how it's evolved to what mariachi is now."

While Alberto's upcoming stay in New Mexico will be brief, he'll be back less than two weeks later. He'll sing "White Christmas" as the special guest at Coro Lux's Seasons of Love — a Candlelight Concert on Dec. 15 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Albuquerque.

If all that isn't enough to keep Alberto busy, he has a new passion, one he can indulge every autumn.

"Prior to becoming a Mariachi Ram, I never paid that much attention to football," he says. "But now that's my favorite sport."