José “Pepe” Martínez
b. Tecalitlán, June 27, 1941; d April 23, 2016
José “Pepe” Martínez was born in 1941, in the southern Jalisco village of Tecalitlán, where he demonstrated a natural talent for music as a young boy. Mariachi music was deeply rooted in his local community and was a primary inspiration to him as a young musician. At the age of 12, Martínez organized his first mariachi band called Mariachi San Andrés with his fellow school mates, naming the group after the neighborhood they lived in.
At 19 years old, having performed in a handful of ensembles already, Martínez began to arrange and compose his own music. In 1975, Martínez joined the famed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and embarked on a journey to write a new chapter in mariachi music, establishing himself as a prominent composer, and the ensemble as a leader in the world of mariachi. Hi style was one of a kind, featuring elements such as rapid violin ricochets. Martínez served as Music director of Mariachi Vargas from 1975 through his final season with the ensemble in 2014. Comissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Cruzar la cara de la Luna, premiered in 2010 and was his first opera. Martínez passed away in April of 2016 at the age of 74.