At only six years old, Dean Martin Camacho learned to play the organ in his family's home in Mexico. His grandfather bought the organ years earlier with the hope that one day one of his sons would learn to play, but it was his grandson who took an interest in the instrument. Soon placed in private lessons, at age eight, Camacho entered the high-caliber Escuela Superior de Música in his hometown of Mexico City. After completing his bachelor's degree at Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, he earned his master's degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music and his doctorate at the University of Miami.
What drove you to remain in the United States when beginning your career?
I always thought that I was going to go back to Mexico to further my profession there, but once I graduated with my doctorate in music, I had an employment offer in Miami. I started working in the university environment and my two daughters were born here in the United States. I received an offer for a director position at a conservatory in Mexico but made the difficult decision to pursue career opportunities in the States. I had become accustomed to how music is taught in the States and the opportunities that exist here to help people and students. At the end of the day, I realized that, after 27 years, this had become my home.
What did the beginning of your career in academia look like?
My professional career in academia started in Miami. Beginning as a part-time professor, I received an opportunity to become an assistant chair of a fine arts department. I was doing the job of an assistant chair while also maintaining my position as an assistant professor. So, my career as an academic and administrator began almost simultaneously, and I appreciated both. I enjoy teaching music, but I also enjoy fine arts programs in general. Likewise, I liked academia from the administrative perspective, but I also as a faculty member. So, that is how it began.
How did you make your way from Miami, Florida to Lubbock, Texas?
Well, it was not a non-stop flight. I started my career at Barry University in Miami Shores and later became a dean in one of the largest community colleges in New England. After my time in Rhode Island, I was the chair of the music department at the University of Arkansas where I remained until I was appointed Dean of the Fain College of Fine Arts at Midwestern State University for eight years until I accepted this position at Tech.
What does your role as a dean look like on the day to day?
I remember my daughter asking me this question when she was very small and thinking to myself, "How do you explain the position of the dean?" My job within the College is to fix existing problems but, more importantly, to anticipate those that might arise. The most important part of this job is managing human resources, to maintain the balance between faculty, staff, students, curriculum, and resources and make certain the college runs efficiently and effectively. This can mean anything from ensuring there are enough professors to teach classes to keeping the lights running in the building. The person ultimately responsible for all aspects of education, from degrees to scholarships, is the Dean. You take care of the small things, like when the AC breaks or the projector doesn't work, but you get a call when an academic program is floundering, and you address that as well: big ideas, small operations, and everything in between.
Why did you choose to accept the position here at Texas Tech?
This is a unique opportunity because Tech is one of the big players in Texas. I have devoted the last eight years of my life to the state, and I came here with a purpose. Texas plays a particularly important part in the cultural growth of our country, and I wanted to be a part of that. So, when I was offered the opportunity to become Dean here at Texas Tech, I was excited to make an impact on a larger scale.
What do imagine for the future of the program?
At the end of the day, the Dean is like the coach of an athletic team, right? My main job as the coach is to bring together the team and give them the tools and strategy to play their best. As I mentioned before, the most precious resource that I have in the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts at Texas Tech is human resources, and by that I mean its people. With the right people around you, all responsibilities become easier, more exciting, more collaborative. The faculty and students here are first class. Our goal is to unite this community of students, faculty, and staff, develop a plan for an excellent future, and make that vision a reality. New leadership is the perfect time for our community to revisit where we want to go, together.