Dulce Maria Soto, whose artist name is Maria D’Luz, said that singing on Facebook Live has been her way of staying connected to the Rio Grande Valley since moving to another state. Now, as citizens across the country are urged to stay home to mitigate the pandemic, Soto, a Mexican-American singer and songwriter, opened her stage to other local artists.
Through Maple Music, the record label she founded in 2014, local artists have been taking part in the company’s Music Relief Benefit Concert, an online series hosted through its Facebook page. Throughout the show, participating artists take turns performing on the account’s live stream, with genres ranging from easy rock to mariachi. Friday was the company’s third show in the series, which featured six local artists for a three-hour concert.
Each artist reaped about 2,000 views each, Soto, 33, said.
Her idea for the online concert stemmed from her hope of continuing to share positivity, especially during a time when much uncertainty has caused anxiety across the community — and music was how she wanted to do it.
“The whole concept is to share happiness,” said Soto, who is currently a student of Berklee College of Music in Boston. “We are all quite lonely right now in our homes… I just feel that music is a really good medicine. It’s therapy for all of us, and if we can share it and make someone happy at home, and help them forget about what is going on for a moment, that is a win.”
Soto was born in Matamoros, raised in Brownsville, and began her musical career in McAllen. As a full-time musician, she has taken on gigs performing in restaurants all across the Valley, including Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Pharr. However, as restaurants have been ordered to only have curbside and drive-thru services, many artists who depend on live music scenes for gigs have not been able to play.
So, all donations of the Music Relief Benefit Concert are divided among the artists. Soto emphasized that she wants artists to start building online platforms for themselves.
“Things change so quickly, so we are trying to find a new business model that works for ourselves,” she said.
Artists who took part in the Friday series include Soto, who sang covers and original songs while playing the piano. Following acts include Mario Alema, Ruben Saenz Jr., Daniel Loera, Amed Medina, and Cleo, Evey and Emmanuel in a band. The artists were seen performing from living rooms, bedrooms and backyards.
The evening closed with Alberto Kreimerman, CEO of Hermes Music and founder of the Hermes Music Foundation.
“I see that on Facebook, there is a lot of news that is making people sad or anxious or depressed, and I feel like that is a dangerous virus, too. We want to save people from that, and music is an outlet. It is a way to look up, to keep each other afloat with positive feelings,” he said.
Soto began playing piano before her fourth birthday. At 9 years old, she competed in Juguemos A Cantar, a Mexican singing contest sponsored by Televisa. So far, she has released three albums: Just Notes, While You Were Gone, and Por Ese Destello (By That Flash) — all of which are available on iTunes and Spotify.
Since leaving the Valley, Soto said that she realized how prominent live music was to the area, and how important it is to her, and her audience, to keep the spirit going despite the pandemic.
“Live music in the Valley is huge, it’s all over the place,” she said. “I have traveled and been to some cities where the music scene just isn’t that strong. In the Valley, there is just so much support for the arts.
“This is how we can stay connected through all of this; this is how we can stay strong together: through music.”
Maple Music will continue to host the online concert every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. on its Facebook page. There, a Go Fund Me page can be found, where listeners can donate to the artists.