Alumnus Feels the Beat with Music Career
For nearly 25 years, Walter Suhr ’89 has been making the citizens of Houston dance to the rhythms his band, Mango Punch!, has produced. The band and its music reflect the diversity of Houston as the musicians play music from the 40s and 50s, the top 40 charts, Cumbia and Latin music. Recently, they have added Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars to their repertoire of more than 200 songs.
Music was something Suhr was drawn to from a young age. Growing up in Guatemala, he remembers listening to Elton John and James Taylor, and credits them for instilling the desire to pursue a career in music. Ironically, it wasn’t until he moved to the United States to study music and computer science at UST that he discovered the emerging Latin scene, with Juan Luis Guerra and Gloria Estefan, who had managed to create crossover success in America.
“They were Latin musicians to be proud of,” Suhr said. “They were making a crossover, which is what we always wanted to do. As a matter of fact, our name, Mango Punch! was developed because my manager and I wanted to create a name with two words, one in English and one in Spanish that both cultures would understand. We want to appeal to an audience that would integrate American and Latin values.”
Suhr attended St. Thomas on a full-tuition scholarship through the Music Department and blossomed into the musician he now is. Through the one-on-one music courses and the computer science, Suhr put himself in a position where he could develop and shape the personality of Mango Punch!.
He has come a long way since composing and recording everything himself. Today the band has received many accolades, most recently having two songs make the Top 10 of the Latin category in the USA Songwriting Competition. His Song “Que Bonito Se Siente,” received a Top 20 overall Honorable Mention, the only Latin song to receive that distinction.
“We are always looking for exposure and ways to advance our careers,” Suhr said. “Although most people in Houston know me as a performer, most people don’t know we have six albums of original music. This validates my songwriting.”
For Suhr, there is fulfillment in songwriting. He enjoys the creative process and finds it rewarding when someone identifies with the message or when it makes them dance.
Even though Mango! has had tremendous success—they have played at the Super Bowl pre-show and for both Houston mayors—the bands passion and ambition lies in spreading original music. In the next few weeks the band plans to release a music video for its song, “La Autografia,” publish an updated website and prepare to celebrate a milestone—playing for 25 years—by creating a retrospective and releasing a new album.
“No matter how long I have been doing this, I appreciate each time I get the opportunity to get on stage and perform,” Suhr said. “I am very aware of being extremely lucky to make a living doing what I love. I am really thankful for St. Thomas. Every time I perform I keep in mind that I am representing not only Guatemala, my home country, but also St. Thomas.”
Walter Suhr and Mango Punch! will perform at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 at City Centre Plaza, 815 Town & Country Lane Admission is free but non-perishable food donations to Dance for a Cause are welcome.