Texas Tech University

TTU Tango Orchestra Headlines Lubbock Arts Festival

Anna K.

April 12, 2023

Image of Pablo Aslan's Concert Poster

Latin Grammy Awarded (“Best Tango Album”) and Grammy Awarded (“Best Latin Jazz Album”) artist, Pablo Aslan will be performing with the Texas Tech University Tango Orchestra in the 45th Annual Lubbock Arts Festival on Sunday, April 16.

The TTU Tango orchestra was established in 2014. This ensemble was started by Dr. Tom Cimarusti, after the performance of tango opera “Maria de Buenos Aires” by the former TTU Vernacular Music Center ensemble, World Music Ensemble. The students' love and connection with the music and art of tango from that experience encouraged them to keep playing and studying it. One of the students who were in this starting group, Charles Olivier, expanded the tango passion in Lubbock.

Charles Olivier was a student in the TTU School of Music who received a bachelor's degree in Music Education, a certificate of World Music in Tango Performance, and a master's degree in Ethnomusicology. He is currently the Assistant Director of the K-12 Global Education Outreach unit for the Office of the Provost International Affairs. The two fields of education and musicology came together to form his passion for tango and tango education. He currently directs the TTU Tango Orchestra and the Lubbock ISD All-District Tango Orchestra, a free after school tango orchestra for High School students in the Lubbock area. He also performs on bandoneon with symphonies and other tango ensembles throughout the United States and Canada. He is also a founding member of Tango Llaneros, Lubbock Tango Ensemble. As a tango advocate, outside of Lubbock, Olivier arranges music for and coach various college and public-school orchestra programs on tango performance practice throughout Texas and the United States.

In our interview with Olivier, he shares with us what tango means to him:

“Tango is a musical art form that encourages its players to not be afraid of mistakes and to play with passion knowing the music you are making is truly your own. This is very refreshing when coming from a music culture where every note and rhythm is prescribed and judged if not played exactly as what is on the page. I hope to instill the love and freedom of tango to my students. As I have been doing this, I have definitely seen the impact that this has had on my students and what really inspires me is when I see them bring this attitude to other genres of music and start really making those pieces their own as well.”

Image of Tango Orchestra at ABQ

Photo Credit: ABQ Tango Festival

Master's in Violin Performance student, Anna Kim, shares with us her experience being a part of this ensemble:

“Tango has been in my life for the past six years. I have been a part of the TTU Tango Orchestra ever since my freshman year of undergrad. It is exciting and touching to know the people I have encountered in the tango community. Being a part of this ensemble was not just being in another orchestra, but being a part of a family where I could express myself through my music freely. It has been an incredible experience to not only just experience tango with the TTU Tango Orchestra, but also having the opportunity as a part of the professional tango ensemble, Tango Llaneros, for the past three years. Tango has allowed me to express a diverse of emotions through my music. I am always excited to share and perform this language of music!”

Image of the Tango Orchestra at TMEA

Photo Courtesy: Rachel Vickery

The TTU Tango Orchestra has been a recognized ensemble across Texas and the Southwest of the United States, performing in diverse venues and festivals. They also have been invited to and have performed at the Texas Music Educators Association Conference three times. The next performance adventure these students will be experiencing will be with internationally recognized tango bassist, Pablo Aslan, at the Lubbock Arts Festival!

Students in this ensemble have been working diligently for this event. “Besides the individual hours of practicing and the many hours of rehearsal, what makes preparing for a tango performance unique is the amount of listening that is involved. Students have been listening and playing with historical recordings to make style and phrasing of the great orchestra of the Golden Age of Tango.” Charles says that he's told the ensemble to listen and play along, because it has been said many times to him by the great teachers that he has studied with in Buenos Aires who say, “you must blend in so well that you cannot hear yourself any longer.” Among those tango masters was Pablo Aslan.

“Argentine-born musician and producer Pablo Aslan is recognized internationally as one of the leading figures in contemporary tango. His discography includes Piazzolla in Brooklyn (2011), and Tango Grill (2009). The latter earned him nominations for a Latin Grammy and a Grammy award.” You can find more about Pablo on his website.  

The Lubbock Arts Festival is the biggest multi-arts event in the Lubbock Area and was awarded the “2022 Best in Texas” award by the Texas Festivals & Events Association. The guest artist for this year's Festival is Pablo Aslan. Charles Olivier has worked and performed with Pablo Aslan for years. When Aslan was asked to play at the festival, he contacted Olivier, wanting to know if the TTU Tango Orchestra and Tango Llaneros would be interested in accompanying him on stage. He has coached the orchestra in the past and was very impressed with their playing.

During his time here, along with rehearsing with these students for Sunday's event, Alsan will also be teaching a bass masterclass on Thursday, April 13 at 4 PM in the TTU School of Music-Choir Hall. This event is free to the public.

In preparation for their performance, the TTU Tango Orchestra will do a FREE pre-concert at the TTU International Cultural Center on Friday, April 14 at 6 PM. If you would like to attend their performance at the Lubbock Arts Festival, you can find more information here on admission fees. The Lubbock Arts Festival will be held from April 15 (10 AM – 6 PM) to April 16 (12 PM – 5 PM). If you would like to watch the tango performance, save your calendars for Sunday, April 16 at 2 PM!

The TTU Tango Orchestra is ecstatic about this performance because they get to bring a world class performance to the amazing people of Lubbock that have supported them for all these years. A very special performance they get to share with the city of Lubbock as they will get to play with one of the most influential tango musicians not only in the United States, but in the world.