Born in Mexico, Keene State College sophomore Oscar Muñoz Franco crossed the Mexico-United States border every morning for about five years to go to school before he moved to the U.S..
Muñoz went to Lorrita Catholic School in Douglas, Arizona starting in first grade until the end of his fifth grade while he was living in a town in Sonora, Mexico called Agua Prieta. Muñoz now calls Bedford, New Hampshire his home after he moved there in 2013 with his family.
Muñoz is majoring in music technology here at KSC. Muñoz’s primary instrument is voice while piano is his second. Muñoz’s applied voice lessons teacher Pamela Stevens described Muñoz as kind, gentle and grateful. She said, “He’s very prepared, has a lovely voice, and is eager to learn, [and is] appreciative of any new information that I can share with him.” Stevens said that Muñoz is a joy to work with.
Muñoz’s interest in music started after he joined school in the U.S.. For 11-year-old Muñoz, his first year in the U.S in sixth grade was spent getting used to the new American style. Muñoz said, “It is way different than in Mexico. You don’t see people just talking with neighbors in the street [in the U.S.]. They are more confined; people kind of keep to themselves constantly, so you kind of get used to that.”
In seventh grade, Muñoz found his passion. He said, “In seventh grade I joined choir and I got more involved in music around that time.”
Young Muñoz didn’t understand why the family moved. He remembered flying from Tucson to New England and then driving from the airport to the house his dad was renting. He said, “We didn’t even know where we were. We didn’t really have anything. We just had a few clothes, our toothbrushes and stuff. We slept on the floor our first day. It was like an inflatable bed.”
Muñoz shared that the language didn’t make it hard for him as much as it did for his parents because he had learned English since the first grade. He said, “For my parents, it was very hard for them, especially for my mom… It was very hard for her to try to communicate with people. She didn’t really know how to formulate sentences… It’s like that barrier you cannot really change about yourself when you move to America from anywhere in Latin America, basically.”
Even though he didn’t have the language barrier, Muñoz found it hard, at the beginning, to adjust because of his introverted nature and because he didn’t know anyone at the time. The family moved when Muñoz’s father got a good business opportunity in the U.S.. Muñoz’s father is now working for Watts Water Technologies as a manager.
Muñoz and his siblings woke up at around 5 a.m. to go through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection almost every day just to go to school. It took Muñoz around one hour and 40 minutes every day to get to school in the morning. He said, “It depends [on] how early you wake up; if you wake up early, it shouldn’t be too busy, but around seven or eight, that’s when it’s the busiest; you see a lot of cars, [and] a lot of people just shouting to each other.”
Muñoz and his siblings had to go through a security check every time they crossed the border. The process included the following steps: Checking legal passports and paperworks, and x-ray scanning. The process of going to America included extra steps including scanning fingerprints and scanning all the stuff compared to the process of going to Mexico. He explained, “Going to Mexico is easier because we mainly rely on tourism.”
The decision of going to Loretta school was made by his parents. He said, “They knew that, maybe in the future, we would be coming to America maybe for some opportunity; it was a decision they made.” He also said that the family made the decision to go to the Catholic school, as his family is very Catholic, and he had friends from the community who went to the school.
Muñoz likes his classes and his experience at KSC. Christopher Swist, KSC Resident Artist in the music department and Muñoz’s academic adviser, said, “He’s a singer, so he’s good with some of the things that are sometimes more troubling, like oral skills, keeping a pitch, or finding pitch centers in theory, so he has generally shared with me positive experiences of what he is doing in classes.”
Swist further described Muñoz as very punctual, very reliable and very responsive. He said, “He has always reached out about advising; if there was a class that didn’t quite fit, he always checked to make sure it would work. He’s been very [much a] part of the process of making sure he is taking the right classes.”
Muñoz’s friend and KSC sophomore Rory Butler finds Muñoz very hard-working. She said, “He is very willing to put himself out there.” Butler admires Muñoz as the only singer in the class: “Musical Improvisation”. She said, “It can be very awkward to improvise with other instruments. Whenever he performs, it’s clear that he loves what he’s doing.”
Butler said that she always finds Muñoz practicing in the Redfern Arts Center.
Besides spending time in Redfern, Muñoz also can be seen in the residential building Carle Hall, performing his duties as a Residential Assistant (RA). He said, “I’ve joined the Global Culture Club since last year and have had much fun. I like writing and reading, so I’ve planned on minoring in English next year.” Muñoz further shared his interest to explore journalism and some kinds of sports in the future.
Stevens said, “I’m not sure what exactly he’ll end up doing [in the future]… Like I said, he is very kind and is very prepared, so my hope is he will find an occupation or a job that is comfortable for him, where it would be great for him to share his kindness with other people; we need a lot of that.”
Muñoz said, “Coming to N.H. from all the way in Northern Mexico was quite scary, but I did get used to it after a few years or so. It’s still a bit difficult dealing with the constant need to change aspects about yourself to ‘fit in’, but I guess I’ve done well enough to not stand out too much. Hopefully, I can go back to Mexico to visit once the pandemic ends.”
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