He majored in Music and Anthropology at Earlham College and received an MA in Folklore/Ethnomusicology from Indiana University. He taught and studied music in Mexico, Spain, and Kenya, served as Director of Community Programs for Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music (1993-2005), and co-founded the two-time GRAMMY Nominated Sones de Mexico with Victor Pichardo in 1994. He performs mostly on bass and acts as the group’s main narrator; he has contributed some of the arrangements and has produced five of the ensemble’s CDs. He also administrates the business and serves as the ensemble’s Executive Director.
Active in the community, Juan has volunteered for the boards of NARAS, Folk Alliance and the CSO, served in various municipal, state and national grant panels, and done independent fieldwork research for the Smithsonian, NEA, Montgomery County Arts Council (MD), and Lowell Folk Festival (MA).
Juan is an avid performer and teacher of corrido songwriting. In 2015, he completed a 12-state corrido songwriting workshop funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that included a memorable collaboration with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera in the writing of the “Corrido of Sandra Bland” featured on NPR’s Latino USA.