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 one of the best mariachis to ever come out of San Antonio, Mariachi Chapultepec. 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. Lopez 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 MM 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 Generación, 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 100.
As a performer, Mr. Lopez is very active in the Salsa music community playing Latin percussion with some of the best groups in the Central Texas area. Some of the bands he has played with include La Predilecta, Naningo, Tony Guerrero, Orquesta Tradicion, El Tumbao, Mochate, Son Playado, and Colao. He also served as Music Director for The Mambo Kings of San Antonio during its existence.
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 internationally 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 Generación 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 nine years that they have competed. Internationally, Mariachi Nueva Generación has toured Europe alongside the Texas State University Symphony Orchestra. Most recently Mariachi Nueva Generación and Salsa del Rio toured and performed in Chile (2012). In the summer of 2016 both ensembles showcased their talents on a performance and recruitment tour of the West Coast with stops in Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, Seaside, Salinas, and El Cerrito, CA.