Born and raised in Mexico, Sergio Uraga had a different vision for his life growing up. As a young man, music was his love and passion — so much so that he attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he studied classical music, and became a master of the piano.
“In reality, people don’t think, ‘I’m going to study in order to change the world.’ The truth is, you do it because you enjoy it,” Uraga told LebTown. “If you like to dance, you dance. If you like to perform, then you learn to perform.”
Growing up, his life put him on a different course than he anticipated, although, his passion for music remained unchanged. Today, Uraga is the proud owner of a restaurant, La Placita located on 922 Cumberland St, in Lebanon. Although, he has greater ambitions to spread and teach Mexican culture.
Uraga’s main way to spread his culture is through the Mexican food in his restaurant. However, he recently found a new way to break through to children, a children’s choir.
He claims that this idea began through his yearly performance at St. Benedict the Abbot church on Lehman Street, in Lebanon. Every year, on December 12, Uraga performs Las Mananitas to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Performing with him was part of St. Benedict’s senior choir and two ambitious children.
After his first few performances, the senior choir asked Uraga for help organizing their weekly choir practices. Uraga agreed. He immediately began organizing their weekly practices. There they would begin with a prayer and then jump right into the music.
Little by little, Uraga was sucked into these practices. He was no longer just the director of the choir — he became a member. With his past experience in music, Uraga became the foundation for this senior choir. He accompanied them with the piano and led them to success with every piece they played.
Today, Uraga still directs and plays with the senior choir, although his focus began to shift towards children. Uraga expressed that children are the future and that the music and choir are traditions that need to be passed down. “It is very important that the children learn and continue the traditions. To me, that is a tradition [the choir and music]. If one really wants to help a group or society, like our church [St. Benedict the Abbot], the best thing to do is teach the children. Children are very important because they will continue growing, they are our future.”
With that thought in mind, he began St. Benedict’s first ever children’s choir. The choir is composed of seven children ages 18 and younger, and two adults Uraga as director, and Juan M. Sandoval, as lead singer.
Five out of the seven integrants play a musical instrument with the remaining two focused on singing. These children play a range of instruments including the clarinet, flute, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and accordion. Vocalists sing in both Spanish and English.
There are two main reasons Uraga formed the children’s choir. Firstly, he reiterates that children are fast learners, and that they are the future. He assures that by teaching the young choir, he is making them better musicians and preparing them to one day take over for the senior choir.
Enriching children with culture, however, may be his primary purpose. He points out that the integrants of the choir are all Mexican children who were born in America. This is his way of teaching them about Mexico.
Music, Uraga said, has the power to connect these children to their Mexican roots. “Music involves everything that is cultural because music is a reflection of culture,” Uraga explained. “By studying music, you can learn what their traditions are, how they live, and what they eat.”
The children’s choir has been up and running for a little over two years now. They play the last Sunday of every month at the 11 a.m. Spanish mass.
His students express gratitude and joy for what he has done for them. “Sergio is a great musician and teacher,” Alexander Sandoval, who plays guitar and accordion in the choir, told LebTown. “He’s helped the choir a lot the past two years. He’s a helpful and patient person.” Flutist Karen Arvizu agreed, saying Uraga “not only cares about [the choir] as musicians, but also as his own little family.”
Uraga plans on continuing the children’s choir and has expressed an interest in having an additional class with traditional Mexican music for the children to really connect to their Mexican roots.
Though the music in his life may be a different tune than what he anticipated as a young man, Uraga uses his passion to gift local children with knowledge of his craft and enrich their lives with culture.
Do you know someone in Lebanon County whose story we should share with a larger audience? Get in touch with our newsroom using the contact form below.
We cover all of Lebanon County.
From Myerstown and Schaefferstown, to Fredericksburg and Jonestown, to Campbelltown and Colebrook—we celebrate all the communities that make up this place we call home.
Do you believe these stories matter? Consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will help us do more great work for Lebanon County, and you’ll also receive some special perks like our planning calendar emails and invitations to exclusive members-only events.
Learn more and join now here.
Full Disclosure: La Placita serves as the official mailing address of LebTown, and our newsroom team meets there from time to time over burritos.