Old School: The Ballad of Arsenio Sandoval
by: Jeff Hightower
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Back to the nest...
There is an old saying about going â€œold schoolâ€�. This means youâ€™re going to do things the way they used to be done. Grit down and run head first into whatever is in your way. Itâ€™s the tried and true method for many a musician that leaves them a legacy that will last forever. Born in New Mexico in 1933, Arsenio Sandoval only knew one way, and that was â€œold schoolâ€�. In a time when many didnâ€™t have opportunity, he played music as well as furthered his education by receiving a M.A.T.S. DEGREE (MASTER OF ARTS IN TEACHING SPANISH) from the University of New Mexico. The â€œDancing Troubadourâ€� as he is known, has taught Spanish for many years, and uses it as a blend of music in true Texican flavor. In the words of his long time friend Nashvilleâ€™s own Lee Daniels, "Arsenio a strong writer with years of experience, and the stories of a lifetime. His music is unique, special and has a place of it's own in history. Arsenio Sandoval has been more than a friend to me over the years. He has been a mentor, a father and always a pillar in my life." Since 2000 Arsenio has been a professor at Luna Community College in Las Vegas and was chosen â€œTeacher of the Year in Continued Educationâ€� in New Mexico. Arsenio has probably forgotten more about music than most will ever know. As he crosses genres into Tex-Mex music and maintains that classic sound that make artists like Hank Williams Sr. and Gene Autry household names. Arsenio has done the impossible completing his higher education and using it to develop his own brand of music that was thought to have died out long ago. But as long as cowboys like Arsenio still ride the circuit. Music still has a fighting chance. So, without further delay, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the â€œDancing Troubadourâ€� Arsenio Sandoval. HM - When growing up and learning to play music, who were the major influences that helped develop the sound that you now have? AS - First of all my mother, Amada Perea Sandoval, who sang every day as she did her chores. She sang in Spanish and English and she would teach me poems in both Spanish and English, Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, And in Spanish, Pedro Infante, a Mexican crooner from the 50's. HM - As a highly educated songwriter, does this give you an edge with songwriting? AS - Yes, I think it definitely does, what I learned from my mother about rhyming words, From my other influences I learned how to create images and feeling with my words. HM - Explain where the moniker, "The Dancing Troubadour" came from AS - Since I perform alone, just me and I mandolin, I discovered that the best way to keep the timing is to dance as I play, This also makes it possible for me to mingle with audience if I use a cordless microphone. Sometimes women get on the dance floor and dance with me or they will dance with their own partner. HM - How does your classic style of music fit in with today's style of music? AS - I don't know if it fits in at all. All I know is that when I perform live, people really enjoy my music. I think my music is a change of pace for people who get tired of same old thing. HM - What introduced you to the Tex-Mex style of music? (ie -What drew you into it?) AS - I think that sometime in the 70's somebody came with a name for something that we had been doing all along. Bi-lingual people in English and Spanish speak both languages at the same time, unless the other person doesn't speak one of the languages, in which case, they will speak just English or just Spanish. The answer to this question is that I was born into the Tex-Mex style of music. HM - How does your proficiency in Spanish and English play a factor into the music that you write? AS - It definitely plays a factor, although speaking two languages does not automatically make you a poet or songwriter. Proficiency in both languages helps me find the right words to create the right images. HM - When you sit down to write a song, what is it that you look for when first putting pen to paper? AS - By the time I put something down on paper the general idea of the first verse or sometimes the whole song has gone through my mind several times. The first line I put down is like a challenge to me to come up with a story that will strike a chord in the consciousness of my listeners. It can't be just a bunch of words that rhyme. I have to create images. Sometimes what I leave unsaid is more important than what I say. HM - What exactly do you consider the most important element of the song? AS - The most important element of my songs has to be the rhythm. Without thythm the song is just a poem. My songs have to be danceable. HM - How has songwriting changed from the 50's on the current style heard on the radio? AS - I am more of an entertainer that a musician, but these are the differences that I notice: 1. Songs from the 50's and 60's have unforgettable tunes. You hear 'Cold, Cold Heart once and the tune sticks to you. You never forget it. You never confuse it with another song. 2. In the songs of the 50's and 60's I always understand the words. In the songs of the current songs playing on the radio sometimes I don't understand the words. Either the instruments drown out the voice or singers are using a 'Nashville twang' that makes it hard for me to understand the words. HM - When all is said and done what do you consider the defining moment of your musical career? AS - The defining moment of my musical career was when I met Lee Daniels at a Radio Shack where he was working. I went in to buy a part for my four-track tape recorder. He asked me, "Do you write songs" I said "Yes". I told him that my dream had been to write a song that would play on the radio. He said, 'You can do more than that, You can become a star. And the rest is history. Here I am interviewing with Mr. Hightower from HornetManMusic, Nashville We at HMM are very glad to have Arsenio as a guest and look forward to hearing future projects from him. Very rarely do we get to see â€œold schoolâ€� in action and we thank Arsenio for an opportunity to take a good look. From the nestâ€¦ Hornetman