Nathan Barrientes and Elizabeth Sanchez sing a duet with. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.

The success and longevity of Fiesta Noche del Rio, a local musical entertainment show performed during the summer at the Arneson River Theater in San Antonio, is a testament to the dedicated performers that make up the this musical family. With unique musical and vocal talents, each member helps to contribute to the quality of the show as well as its rich history. Ultimately, the combined wisdom of the more experienced performers and the adventurous nature of new performers have resulted in a dynamic show that pays homage to the traditional, while also respecting the musical present.

Fiesta Noche del Rio is the largest fundraising event for the Alamo Kiwanis Club. The local chapter, of which I am the executive director of, raises money to support children’s charities throughout Bexar County.

Although Fiesta Noche del Rio’s performers span from different generations, their love of the fine arts is the musical thread that binds them together as a family. Their unique perspectives, varied goals, and numerous talents is what keeps Fiesta Noche del Rio as vibrant and unique as when it was first founded. Many of their performers have a long history with Fiesta Noche del Rio while others have just begun their journey. Regardless of their time with the show, they all have unique stories to tell about their life as a performer for Fiesta Noche del Rio.

With humble beginnings, Elizabeth Sanchez-Lopez, the director, choreographer, and lead female vocalist of Fiesta Noche del Rio, started as a dancer for the show in the mid-80s. After three years, Elizabeth transitioned into her current leadership roles and never looked back. Her experience as an educator prompted her to make the show more interactive by teaching audience goers gritos, Mexican yells, palmas, hand claps from Spain, and even dances.Ultimately, providing opportunities for audience involvement, Fiesta Noche del Rio has been able to engage visitors and create lasting memories for those who participate.

Elizabeth Sanchez performs during the 2015 Fiesta Noche del Rio. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.
Elizabeth Sanchez-Lopez performs during the 2015 Fiesta Noche del Rio. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.

This summer-long performance combines Elizabeth’s two passions: the performing arts and children. Presented by the Alamo Kiwanis Club, Fiesta Noche del Rio focuses on raising funds for local children’s charities in San Antonio. As director and choreographer, Elizabeth ensures that the show goes on to support local children in need. As a Fine Arts Supervisor at Northside Independent School District, Elizabeth is ecstatic to see her students and even fellow educators become a part of the Fiesta Noche del Rio family.

Alejandro Antonio, the show’s flamenco guitarist, is another seasoned veteran of Fiesta Noche del Rio. His reverence for the art of music keeps him grateful for the opportunity to share his talent with others. Initially, he believed he wouldn’t get a chance to perform for the show; however, fate soon stepped in. He had the opportunity to play for a couple of weeks, an extended audition of sorts, and was later offered a contract for the upcoming season. With every performance, Alejandro hopes to keep the sounds of his instructor “El Curro” alive; although he has since passed the music he made lives on with Alejandro and he works diligently to make sure it isn’t forgotten.

Nathan Barrientes and Alejandro Antonio. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.
Nathan Barrientes and Alejandro Antonio. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.

Nathan Barrientes is the newest member of Fiesta Noche del Rio. With a passion for performance, he has become the shows new, male vocalist. Growing up in the small town of Bishop, TX, Nathan always knew his future would involve the stage. As a lead male vocalist for the show, Nathan is excited to fulfill his life-long dream while increasing the notoriety of the show to residents and tourists across the city.

As an educator, Nathan’s involvement in the show also gives him another way in which to connect with his students. Rather than just being viewed as a teacher, students view him as a performer; an instructor that doesn’t just talk the talk but actually walks the walk. Ultimately, this opportunity is not just for Nathan, but is also an opportunity for his students to realize their own path, wherever it might take them.

As you can see, each member of Fiesta Noche del Rio carries a unique story, focus, and motivation. But they are inextricably linked by their love of music and dance. The individuality of the performers is what makes them unique, and it is this uniqueness that is reflected in Fiesta Noche del Rio with each and every performance.

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*Featured/top image: Nathan Barrientes and Elizabeth Sanchez sing a duet with. Photo by Paul Casanova Garcia.

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Heather Akkerman

Heather Akkerman is the Executive Director for Alamo Kiwanis Club and has been with the non-profit organization for 3 years. Akkerman has been instrumental in promoting new growth opportunities for the...