Starting at a young age, John A. Lopez was exposed to some of the best in Latin music. His father Aruto Lopez was the founder and director of Mariachi Chapultepec, one of the best mariachis to ever come out of San Antonio. His mother, Beatriz Llamas, La Paloma del Norte, was a famous mariachi and conjunto singer; she has been inducted into the Tejano and Conjunto halls of fame.
John began his musical career as a percussionist at Thomas Edison High School in San Antonio, TX and upon graduating attended Texas State University as a music major. He eventually received a Master of Music in Percussion Performance and Composition from Texas State in 1992. Shortly after graduating he began working as a part time faculty member at Texas State in charge of marching percussion; however, he quickly started to create classes in the music department that highlighted his passion for Latin music. This inevitably evolved into the expansion of Latin music at Texas State. In 2003 Mr. Lopez became a tenured Associate-Professor as well as the founder and coordinator of the Latin Music Studies area. Starting with the creation of Salsa del Rio in 1995, the Latin Music Studies area has grown to include Mariachi Nueva Generacion, Mariachi Lince De Oro, Orquesta del Rio, and Mariachi Infantil, the youth mariachi program. The total number of students involved in these programs has grown to over one hundred.
Under his direction, the Salsa and Mariachi ensembles have gained much recognition throughout the state, as well as nationally and internationally through several performance opportunities. Salsa del Rio has performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, Brienz Jazz Festival, Carnaval de Nice, Cancun and Mexico City, Mexico. Nationally, they have performed at the prestigious Notre Dame Jazz Festival, where they have won several awards.
Mariachi Nueva Generacion has quickly risen as one of the best university Mariachi ensembles in the state of Texas. They compete regularly at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza held annually in December in San Antonio, TX, where they have won first place seven out of the last ten years that they have competed. Internationally, Mariachi Nueva Generacion has toured Europe alongside the Texas State University Symphony Orchestra. Most recently Mariachi Nueva Generacion and Salsa del Rio toured and performed in Chile.
In May of 2016 both ensembles once again showcased their talents during a tour of the West Coast with performances in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.