By Carrie Wilkie-Sambrano
Endearing the sounds of the 1940’s is the Paso del Norte Big Band. It was in 2013 that founder and director Javier Sambrano was able to fulfill his dream of having his own big band. The full 17 piece orchestra performs hits from the big band era by artists like Count Basie, Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and many more.
Sambrano’s love for big band music and his determination lead him to realize his dream. Five years ago the band had its first rehearsal in the auditorium of the San Martin de Porras Catholic Church in Sunland Park. NM. The then priest was a big supporter of arts in the community and strongly felt that by supporting Sambrano’s efforts to form a big band; that the southern New Mexico and El Paso communities would gladly welcome his orchestra. His intuition was correct and five years later the orchestra plays monthly at the Shundo Ballroom & Dance Studio, on the second to last Friday of the month. “It has been a wonderful partnership and I hope to see it continue to grow. Not only has it brought exposure to the studio but has introduced a new generation to the sounds of big band music,“ said Mando Rodriguez, owner of Shundo.
Hector Gallegos (trumpet, vocals, piano) is one of the bands original members and reflects on the days of old. Witness to the growing pains and departures of many a musician, he states that through his experience he has “improved his sight reading skills, increased his knowledge of music and its history as well given him the opportunity to play with fellow musicians and educators like Eddie Terrazas, Chilo Meza and Frank Zona. “
Additionally, it has inspired him to not be afraid and be willing to take a leap of faith for what you believe in. Recognizing the healing qualities music has as it “helped to keep him sane” when life offered up a speedbump. Gallegos vividly recalls when he and Sambrano would talk about his dream of one day having a big band and feels privileged to see it go from an idea on paper to a reality.
As such; the orchestra has been fortunate to play various events throughout El Paso including but not limited to private birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and weddings. They have also had the great honor to be a part of the San Jacinto Plaza Grand Re-Opening, Dancing In The City, Kids Excel El Paso, Red Cross Annual Fundraiser, Showtime El Paso, War Eagles WWII Remembrance, El Paso Playhouse Season Reveal and the Western New Mexico Annual Gala Fundraiser just to name few. Additionally, the orchestra hosts quarterly “Tea Dances” at the Woman’s Club of El Paso with the next one on February 10th, 2019 for Valentine’s Day. Ticket prices are $20 and reservations are encouraged.
“It’s very special to be a part of this band. I joined the group almost from the beginning and really enjoy it. Everyone is a great musician, I’ve learned a lot. However; it’s the friendliness, communication and attention to detail make it an experience like no other and allows everyone to give the very best at each performance while having a great time,” continued Hilario Gamez (tenor sax). “I know how much work goes on behind the scenes and appreciate all the hard work they do so that we can simply come in and play. The equipment is stellar, the books are in order and the attention to detail is exceptional. Hard to believe it’s just the two of them.” Gamez said.
The band functions as one big family and as with most, there are those that come and go. Nevertheless, they remain a part of the big band family and are always welcome to come and sit in anytime that they pass through. Sambrano states that although he is sad to see them go, it is also nice to be a witness to the growth of each musician. He hopes for continued success and aspires to record an album for public release within the next year. In the meantime, he stays busy as a Detective with the El Paso Police Department.
The mission of the Paso del Norte Big Band is to educate and promote community musical education and awareness by virtue of performance and through workshops. It is the hope of all the musicians involved to share their musical experience & [hopefully] inspire the next generation; as they too were once inspired and encouraged to pursue their passion for music. If you are interested in viewing some of their past performances, please visit, like, & follow their Facebook page @ www.Facebook.Com/Pdnbigband Or YouTube Channel @ https://www.youtube.com/hannel/UCCrPmeBYn44UhXl4fBqeMA. Furthermore; if you would like to hire the band for an event, please contact Sambrano at 915-203-7292 or Music@Pdnbigband.Com