Dr. Dahlia Guerra, director and founder of The University of Texas-Pan American's award-winning Mariachi, began her tenure as the new chair of the UTPA Department of Music on June 1.
"I was born in Edinburg, and I started studying (at UTPA) in the Music Department when I was 12 or 13 years old, so I've spent a good part of my life at the department. It's a very important part of my life," Guerra said.
"I feel really devoted to the Music Department, and I've very excited and honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work with the other faculty as the department chair. I think we have a wonderful faculty, a great community and an amazing number of talented students out there."
She said she has spent time in the first weeks of her tenure as department chair visiting area high schools and meeting with the music directors there.
"There is a vast potential of untapped students that we need to reach out to," she said.
Guerra said she plans to propose a master's degree program in music at UTPA in response to requests from local public school band directors, many of whom hold a bachelor's degree in music and wish to continue their education.
She said she will continue to direct the UTPA Mariachi and Estudiantina performing groups, but also wants to see growth in the University Band and Choir as well.
"I also want to work closer with the cities, starting with the City of Edinburg, and also with the school districts," Guerra said. "I want to visit schools with different kinds of chamber groups and just be more involved in the community."
Guerra, who received her doctorate of musical arts from the University of Oklahoma in 1997, has been a full-time faculty member at UTPA since 1985. She received a bachelor of arts in piano performance from then-Pan American University in 1976 and a master of music in piano performance and piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University in 1978.
Under her leadership, the UTPA Mariachi has been voted best collegiate mariachi for the last four years in national competition in San Antonio. Guerra has performed numerous piano recitals and has performed with the Valley Symphony Orchestra, the South Texas Chamber Orchestra and the Sinfonica de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico. She has lectured at the McAllen International Museum on Mexican folk music and designed a popular UTPA course on the history of Mexican folk music.