The Adventure of a Genius Martha Gonzalez

Adventure of a Genius Martha Gonzalez
The Adventure of a Genius Martha Gonzalez - John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Considering that Martha Gonzalez hardly ever went to college, we wouldn't believe what she did. A 1999 UCLA graduate, Gonzalez is now a prominent musician-activist, university lecturer, and feminist philosopher. She was also among 2022 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for 25 in October she.

Often referred to as the “genius scholarship,” this $800.000 award is given to academics and artists who demonstrate great creativity and whose past achievements point to the possibility of engaging in interesting creative work in the future.

Gonzalez was honored for her commitment to promoting bridges between the United States and Mexico through international collaboration initiatives and the use of participatory music and art to build communities.

A few weeks after the award was announced, he thought about his extraordinary journey to this award.

Growing up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Gonzalez claimed that her mother only finished sophomore year, while her father did not finish high school. University wasn't on my radar. I tried to enlist in the navy, but I was too young. They asked me to apply again within a year.

He was recommended by a friend's mother to enroll in Pasadena City College. Gonzalez discovered his writing and analytical skills while a student there.

Gonzalez still calls himself “Chican@ Artivista” 30 years later. He believes music has the ability to bring people together, explore the human condition and motivate action.

Music has had a profound effect on Gonzalez's life. His father taught him and his siblings the art of singing ranchera, a popular genre of Mexican music. Instead of reading musical notes, he learned by listening to his father and imitating his lines. He and his sister, Claudia, performed as vocalists on Gabriel's tour for a while when Gonzalez was still a child; The group used the pseudonym Gabrielito González, La Actuación Infantil.

Gonzalez states that these experiences are filled with music and culture. But there were also dark times. My father had an obsession with succeeding in the world of popular music. This is what capitalism does to music culture as a value system: it equates it with career advancement and financial success. It's also what consumes you.

Gonzalez's father started drinking heavily. Her mother fled, taking her four children with her. Gonzalez made it her top priority to support herself and her mother when she finished high school.

While attending Pasadena City College, a cousin encouraged him to consider applying to UCLA's ethnomusicology program. Gonzalez, I told my cousin I could never get in. I didn't even know how to read music.

But during the application process, UCLA professor of ethnomusicology Steven Loza put Gonzalez at ease, telling him that his musical skills and experience were important. In 1993 Gonzalez was accepted to UCLA.

He spent a year on campus, took a break, returned in 1997 and graduated with a BA in 1999. According to Gonzalez, music's capacity to develop community was a key factor in its success.

Gonzalez remembers that we were five of us who took relevant classes in the performance ensembles of the ethnomusicology department specifically. We would get together and apply what we learned in class.

“Music was not taught in an exclusionary way, which is a pedagogical approach that often takes music out of context and isolates students from learning on their own,” Gonzalez said. We were educated in a friendly way that made us realize the value systems hidden in music.

After graduating Gonzalez tried to start a music company in Boyle Heights. He ran an after-school arts program and gave frequent concerts with his band Quetzal. Gonzalez is partnered with the group's founder, Quetzal Flores.

After her performances with her group, Gonzalez decided to study gender studies. As academic researchers became interested in Quetzal's music, one of them asked Gonzalez to write a chapter on the subject for a book. He also wrote.

Later, while performing at a university conference, he encountered Michelle Habell-Palán, a professor who lectures students about Quetzal's music. “I told him I was interested in graduate studies and he suggested I come to the University of Washington,” Gonzalez said. This is how I met my advisor for the first time.

Gonzalez said she developed her feminist theory in Washington in the light of her music and community, combining intellectual inquiry with lived experience. There, she received her PhD in 2013. The year Gonzalez joined the faculty of Scripps College, Quetzal received a Grammy Award for best Latin rock album.

And he moved back to northeast Los Angeles with Flores and his sons to continue building a musical ensemble. The Quetzal band is working with musicians from Veracruz, Mexico to plan a cross-border performance and recording project.

Gonzalez said he intends to stay on course even as he gets used to being called the "MacArthur genius."

“Music and culture are not just a hobby or something to be traded,” Gonzalez said. They are forms of understanding that contain important value systems that can support us. Through music, you can encourage critical discourse and discourage hierarchical power structures. Setting up and maintaining bands takes a lot of work, but making music in a band is never tiring as it is basically productive.

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