The much-anticipated naming ceremony of the school’s Bandhall will take place at 1:00 p.m. during the CCAISD Open House this Saturday, August 17 at the new Van Horn gymnasium. Van Horn Mayor, Pam Young will offer the tribute to the school’s former band director, Ralph M. Zamarippa, Jr., known to all his students as “Mr. Z.” Mayor Young was a student and band member of the beloved director.
Zamarippa was one of eight children born to Rafael and Jessie Losoya Zamarippa in San Angelo, Texas on Jan. 23, 1937. The Losoya family had four sons who were active in the San Angelo Bobcat Band under the direction of Homer Anderson. One uncle, Henry Losoya, became a career soldier and drum major for the 101st Airborne Division band at Fort Campbell, Ky. The Zamarippas regularly attended the Bobcat concerts, especially during the summer. The most memorable selections for these concerts were Sousa’s “The Thunderer” and Goldman’s “On the Mall.” Ralph has used “On the Mall” to close many of his spring concerts.
Zamarippa began his early musical career in the Lakeview School District in San Angelo, as a sixth grader playing the cornet. He taught himself to read music because there were no beginning band classes and did not have formal band instruction until his sophomore year.
Following graduation from high school, Zamarippa enlisted in the U.S. Army, where family and military traditions reinforced the connection between music and life. He was ordered to audition for the 6th Army Band in Ft. Ard, California. After passing the audition, he was assigned to the 62nd Army Band at Ft. Dix, N.J., where he became a member of a collection of world-renowned musicians who could be called on to fill vacancies in Army musical organizations around the world. Zamarippa also served as a paratrooper/baritone player with the 82nd Airborne Division Band 1956-59 in Ft. Bragg, N.C. During his tenure with the 82nd, the band performed for the Queen of England in Williamsburg, V.A. in 1958, in New York City, for the 82nd Airborne Convention, and entertained the Division’s Sweetheart, Marlena Dietrich and legendary war hero, Sergeant York.
In 1964, Ralph Zamarippa became “Mr. Z” when he started his teaching career in Van Horn after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree and Masters of Education 1969 from Sul Ross State University. This was the beginning of a 15-year labor of love, with Zamarippa building marching bands that became a legitimate force statewide. The winning streak included 11 Sweepstakes Awards, Class A State Honor Band 1971, performances at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention, voted Top Band at the Buccaneer Music Festival, Outstanding Band at Six Flags Music Festival, Outstanding Band at Phoenix, Arizona Music Festival, Outstanding Band Tri-State Fair, represented West Texas at the Governor’s Inauguration for Governor Dolph Briscoe, and provided music for the opening of Guadalupe National Park in 1972. He also mentored numerous All-State and All Region band members in his 15 years at Van Horn High School and had at least 4 former students become band directors.
Zamarippa has served as an assistant band director for other schools in west Texas and the Panhandle. At the age of 70, Zamarippa received one of the greatest achievements that a band director can receive by being inducted into the Phi Beta Mu International School Bandmaster Fraternity Hall of Fame Alpha Chapter. In 2007, he was recognized for his contribution to musical education in Texas. He is also a member of Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity and the Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, Association of Texas Small School Bands, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and Phi Beta Mu.
Zamarippa’s love for the Fine Arts helped to influence and awaken a new dimension at Van Horn High School in 1964. His attitude to require excellence in all he did was manifest in his tireless hours spent teaching and nurturing. Mr. Z was an outstanding citizen, band director, and role model during his time in Van Horn as he made transformational changes. His hard work is still on display today and found in the very strong traditions he helped to start. Amazingly after some 50 plus years, Ralph Zamarippa’s substantial and influential style is still bridging the past with the present. He is celebrated as being the man that set the standard for excellence in the band hall, on the stage, and marching on the field.