Friday, January 19, 2018
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20171228 ARGUELLOPat Arguello performs Al Hirt's “Fancy Pants” during the McAllen Mobile Park jam on Saturday.

McAllen Mobile Park's Pat Arguello reminded me of a veteran boxer in the ring, diverting punches directed at her with smooth and graceful movements. A question would be aimed at her or about her, but like the cagey veteran, the response would be skillfully pushed to the side, more often than not to promote the talents of others.

Arguello is humility personified. The entertainment coordinator for McAllen Mobile Park, shared some of her story, but not without putting others in front of her on a regular basis.

From talking about the jam (“it's invitation only, my level and up,” she said, placing herself at the bottom of that list) to talking about her successes (“So many others out there have done so much more than me”), to talking about her ongoing battle with breast cancer (“I'm happy to be back, this is our last jam until March,”) the Iowa native who spent 20 years as a pattern maker in Chicago is soft-spoken, kind and a model for what being humble looks like.

20171228 HOWARDHoward O. Bedient

Put her behind a cornet or trumpet, however, and you will see an amazing transformation as she rips off vibrant tunes with such confidence and electricity. And yes, that's a tattoo on the outside of her right hand. “I got it so people can see the treble cleft,” she said.

“She has a following and most of her closest friends are musicians,” said her friend, park resident and entertainment committee member Betty Denison. “She's not only talented with her performance and voice but also with listening and knowing quality when she hears it.”

Arguello's love for music can be traced back to her dad who had a dance band. She continued to dabble in music, taking classes such as music theory. When she first started coming to the Rio Grande Valley, the first thing she did was check out jams. “I was here and went to several jams before I had enough nerves to play,” said Arguello, who is more introverted than extroverted until it comes time for music. “I was really nervous.”

Now she runs one of the most talent-filled jams in South Texas with the likes of Del Puschert, who plays the saxophone and had playing stints with the likes of Elvis Presley and Charlie Daniels. There's also Howard O. Bedient, a master on the double-decker keyboard (whose range of song knowledge is profound, switching from old-time rock 'n roll to a little bit of the 1980s Van Halen song “jump” during an intermission. “He is an amazing vocalist too,” Arguello said. “There's so much talent up there and they've done so much.”

Arguello has done quite a bit as well, even though it's not easy to get her to talk about it. In fact, she didn't talk about it, only texting some of her info in a couple days after we interviewed (maybe she thought she's miss deadline?) Over the years she played with a concert band in Chicago, has performed in different church praise bands and played in the RGV Concert band for the past nine years. She's also been seen with the Winter Texan Orchestra and recorded two CDs in 2011 of her cornet and trumpet playing, as well as her vocals.

20171228 STEVENSDan Stevens

It's been a harsh year for Arguello. Her husband died in June and a month later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She still has six more chemo treatments. But through it all, her focus remains strong on music, and helping others in that arena.

“She is very encouraging to help those who are starting to perform publicly,” said Denison, who is an entertainment committee member. “She always does her best to help them, to make them better. She's a highly organized woman and spot on when it comes to music.”

Denison recently celebrated a birthday and said Arguello treated her to dinner. “We ended up going to a couple jams before, she added music to my day to make it more special,” she said. “But at each jam she would walk up to someone and invite them to this jam – there were a couple here today. Not only does she look for music and musicians she would enjoy but also looking for what the people in our park would enjoy, and helping the musicians get exposed to more people.”

Nearly as the end of the interview, a park resident approached Arguello to let her know that a gentleman in attendance would be celebrating his 98th birthday on Christmas. As she turned back to talk, I asked her about what her biggest music success story was. After a pause and two or three comments along the lines of “those musicians out there have done so much more than I have,” she finally relented and talked of a time when she performed once on television, but it was a brief off the track moment for her as she once again diverted everything somewhere else. “This is our last jam until March,” she said. “We have been doing it in November, December and March. Starting in November, 2018, though, we're going to do it all through the season.”

On this day, the talent was obvious. Trumpet player Dean Schilling played “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and “Oh, Holy Night,” Obedient sang “Just a Jigalo” to the delight of the jam packed rec hall, lead guitarist John Lavoie jammed out to “Jingle Bell Rock” and Arguello performed “Sugar Blues” during her first performance and Al Hirt's 1960s hit “Fancy Pants” for her second number.”

As the interview ended, Arguello stepped back into her musical mode, looked around and then asked me a question - “Do you remember the gentleman's name who is celebrating his 98th birthday on Christmas? I need to find out.”

And she was off, once again looking to promote the park, the jam and someone else's success story.

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