Growing up in the small communities of northern Taos County, dreams are necessary to have the courage to leave the only place you’ve ever known, in search of opportunities to grow your passion.
Chris Arellano was born and raised in the small town of Costilla and growing up, music was the blood that ran in his veins. “My dad was a musician and he would play with my mom and family. We were a family band in the ’80s,” Chris recalls, deeply entrenched in melodic memories.
Chris is the son of Henrietta and the late Jake Arellano. Music came second nature to Chris and his siblings, taking after their parents natural musical talents. Upon graduating high school, Chris moved to California to attend the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. He returned to New Mexico to attend school locally where he won a scholarship that took him to Nashville.
“It’s a tough road in Nashville,” Chris recalls of his time in Music City. “I lived there for eight years and got two different record deals. I learned a lot about the business and it’s a tough business.” This experience in the country music capital of the word didn’t deter Chris from continuing to pursue his passion to make music.
After leaving Nashville, Chris moved to Oregon, taking what he had learned from his experiences and using it to build a business called the Music Café School of Rock. “It’s like the movie School of Rock, we would teach kids during a camp then they would perform for an audience,” Chris recalls.
Although feeling very fulfilled and happy living in Oregon, Chris decided to take his talents and return to the place he started: home.
During the annual Summer School of Rock in northern Taos County, which started in 2012, kids from Questa, Cerro, Costilla, Amalia and other surrounding communities come together to learn songs while playing in a band. “We’ve had eight years of the School of Rock locally, which led us to starting the Nuevo Americana Music Festival, so kids could actually feel like they were learning songs so they could perform them next to big professional musicians on stage,” Chris says of his decision to form the festival. Questa Schools has also partnered with the efforts, supporting kids who want to be involved.
Chris and his wife Mandi decided to make Costilla their permanent home in 2020. “It’s been awesome moving back home. There are things we’re still getting used to, like planning ahead when you go to the grocery store because things aren’t conveniently nearby,” Chris says of his experience of being home for the past three years. “Being home is very peaceful, it’s quiet and I am really excited and motivated to be home where I can make the community a better place for kids and adults alike.”
The Summer School of Rock will run from June 12-16 at the Questa Jr./ Sr. High School band room. For more information about how to register for the Summer School of Rock, call 541-223-2614 or send an email to email@example.com.