Villlalobos Brothers – Program Notes

Ryan Haskins, Music Director & Conductor

Alberto Villalobos

Ernesto Villalobos

Luis Villalobos

Program Pieces & Movements

Selections to be announced from the stage

Program Notes

About The Villalobos Brothers

The Villalobos Brothers have been acclaimed as one of today’s leading Contemporary Mexican ensembles. Their original compositions and arrangements masterfully fuse and celebrate the richness of Mexican folk music with the intricate harmonies of jazz and classical music.

The ensemble’s virtuosic performances have delighted audiences throughout Latin America, India, Russia, Canada and in more than 30 states across the US. They have performed in historic venues and events including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Latin Grammy Awards, Davies Symphony Hall, Montreal Jazz Festival, the Ford Theatre in Hollywood, the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations, the New Victory Theatre on Broadway, San Jose Jazz Fest, Celebrate Brooklyn, the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City, the Blue Note Jazz Festival and the Apollo Theatre.

In 2018, they joined forces with Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for the “Fandango at the Wall” project. This ambitious undertaking, produced by Kabir Sehgal, united legendary international musicians for a live concert at the Tijuana-San Diego border wall which resulted in a live album and documentary film by HBO released in 2019. The Villalobos Brothers recently premiered their Symphonic Project, performing sold-out concerts with both the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Walla Walla Symphony.

The ensemble has collaborated with legendary musicians including Grammy winners Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Antonio Sánchez, Regina Carter, Eduardo Magallanes, Dan Zanes, Sierra Hull, and Ana Tijoux. The Villalobos Brothers are actively touring the United States, delivering a powerful message of love, brotherhood and social justice with brilliance, cadence and virtuosity.

Alberto (Beto) Villalobos

Besides playing violin, Beto enjoys painting, pottery, sketching, writing, and instrument building. He is happiest whenever he is at the sea or his hands are busy creating and building something.

Alberto is a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of (Brussels, Belgium) where he studied with Igor Oistrakh, but most of his education came from Carlos Marrufo (Mexico) and Elfego Villegas (traditional folk). Beto loves music from Veracruz (Son Huasteco, Son Jarocho) as much as free improvisation and traditional Jazz.

Ernesto (Ness) Villalobos

Ernesto moved to New York City at age 18, becoming the youngest person ever to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State. He holds advanced degrees from the Manhattan School of Music (USA), Keshet Eilon (Israel) and Bayerischen Musikakademie (Germany). He loves making friends and creating friendships wherever he goes. Ernesto has a love for writing, graphic design and he is happiest when living in the present moment with his family and friends.

Luis (Wess) Villalobos

Luis holds dual Master’s Degrees from Berklee College of Music and the University of Freiburg (Germany). In 2019, thanks to his violin solos in Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars, he became the first musician from Latin America to be featured on the Boss’ studio recordings. Luis dreams of a world where people can be more instead of having more. He does not believe in nations, race, socioeconomic classes, or any other artificial boundary that keeps humanity alienated. His music and lyrics aim to restore art as more than shallow entertainment. He is a Black belt in Karate-Do and enjoys reading philosophy, mysticism, and poetry. He is happiest setting new challenges for himself, traveling, and being absorbed in the process of making music.

Featured Orchestra Works


The active Mexican composer Arturo Márquez is often mistaken for being of a slightly earlier era because of his accessible music and low media profile in the U.S. An avid dancer, he studied the violin, the instrument of his mariachi musician father, and electronic and other modernist styles before returning to influences of his home country. His most recent major project, a violin concerto for Anne Akiko Meyers, was introduced last year. His main international fame comes from his series of danzones for orchestra, the primary series of which was composed in middle age from 1992-2004.

The Conga del Fuego Nuevo (Conga of the New Fire) dates from 2005 and shares in its dance style the Cuban origins of the earlier danzones. Its title refers to an Aztec ritual, evoking the celebratory spirit rather than illustrating events. An implied nod is made to Mexican music’s champion Carlos Chávez who named a ballet similarly. The conga is a carnival dance on a repeated rhythm (one-two-three-kick!) that became popular in the mid-twentieth century America as a novelty in big band programs and film.


The early twentieth century was a musical renaissance in Mexico, growing out of the end of the country’s revolutionary period as it transitioned fitfully from a long dictatorship lasting until 1911. The composer and conductor Carlos Chávez gained international recognition in the 1920s for his writings and teachings on incorporating native Mexican elements (instruments, rhythms, and tonal systems) in classical genres like the symphony. A favored student of Chávez, pianist José Pablo Moncayo played percussion in the Mexican Symphony Orchestra led by his teacher. Moncayo took a trip to Alvarado in the southern Mexican state of Veracruz to collect folk songs. Though lamenting the melodies were hard to record for never being sung the same way twice, he listened to the huapangueros (huapango-style musicians) and saw a fiesta that inspired his own 1941 Huapango, a fantasy based on three specific dance sources. Like the Márquez piece on tonight’s program, the inherent rhythmic conflict of two against three lends the music a propulsive quality underpinning its endearing tunes. Chávez himself led the premiere of Huapango in August that year with the orchestra. Moncayo went on to study at Tanglewood with Aaron Copland in 1942, earning progressively more responsible conducting and administrative positions with his ensemble back home and its successor the National Symphony through that decade. He died prematurely in 1958, bringing an end to an era of nationalism in Mexican music.