Virginia Rivas Champion, Ph.D., always loved to sing but never thought she would record professionally.
But in early July, Champion released her first album, “Amor Mio,” with her band, Virginia y Valor. The album is available through all streaming, digital music platforms.
“Honestly, initially, I wasn’t even thinking of starting a band,” Champion said, during an interview with Tejano Nation. “I thought, ‘Let me just record and just have it.’ Once I got started, people just started telling me, ‘You need to have a band and people need to hear you.’ And I really started to enjoy it.”
Champion’s debut album includes Conjunto pioneer Linda Escobar as the two join vocals on a song Escobar made famous, “Frijolitos Pintos,” and the album also includes a DJ remix of the song. Champion met Escobar through the band, Tejano Highway 281, and the two hit it off right away, even having similar-sounding vocals.
“She is a really great person,” Champion said of Escobar. “I mean, first of all, she’s just a really big-hearted, beautiful person. I think the world of her as an artist, of course, because she’s just done so much for so many years.”
Champion’s foray into becoming a professional artist began after she earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership, which she completed working full-time and going to school part-time. Suddenly, she found extra time on her hands.
She gathered a band, selected songs and began rehearsals in her home studio. Now, Champion sees her debut album as just a first step along her musical journey as she is already working on new music.
“It’s definitely very gratifying to know that you’ve completed something that you really worked to accomplish,” Champion said. “I would say, a lot of things that I’ve accomplished are because I’m very goal-driven. Once I accomplish one (goal), I’m already looking ahead and thinking about my next step.”
Champion, who began her career in education as a high school English teacher in the 1990s, described her sound as unique and said she likes to evoke emotion into her vocals.
“As far as my voice, it is really my own,” Champion said. “I don’t try to sound like anybody else. I’ve always liked to sing and I just put my heart and soul into it. That is one thing that I know that people who know me understand or know that when I sing, I really just have to forget about everything else and just sing it.”
On her debut album, Champion recorded songs such as “Costumbres,” “Como Han Pasado Los Años,” and “Hay Unos Ojos.”
“When I choose songs that I do want to record, I choose them very carefully,” Champion said. “I choose songs that I know I can interject real meaning into it. It might strike a chord for somebody in a good way or a bad way. I don’t know, but for me, in one way or another, the song has meaning.”
Perhaps the only exception to this, Champion said, is the song, “Frijolitos Pintos,” which she said is a fun, nonsensical song.
Currently, Champion works in the higher education in McAllen, Texas. Like music can impact lives, Champion has also done so through her education career.
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