There was a packed amphitheater for Grammy-winner Ramón Ayala on Saturday, but his oldest fans may have been his most enthusiastic.
Joseph and Jeni Zozaya of Cottonwood were surprised with a trip to the concert at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center by daughter Veronica Martinez, who lives in North Phoenix. But it was more than just attending a concert.
Jeni, 88, and Josef, 92, were invited to a personal meet-and-greet with the Norteño star.
“I have a lot of his CDs with the music he played at the concert,” Jeni Zozaya said. “I just love the accordion and the way he sings.”
A fan of his music since he came on the scene in the 1960s, Jeni said her favorites are among his new music. He has recorded more than 100 albums.
“They have never had the opportunity to see him live in concert, mostly because all eight kids were pretty close in age, so Dad was working, and Mom was taking care of everyone else,” Martinez said. “I tried to get tickets to any of the venues in California and Texas, and all were sold out or on days I could not take them. I heard he was going to be in Tucson, so I was literally about to buy the tickets when one of their granddaughters tagged me in Facebook for the concert in Maricopa.”
Jeni’s reaction to learning they were going to a Ramon Ayala concert? “Oh, my goodness.”
Martinez said her parents were ecstatic. “They could not believe they were going to a concert at their age.”
Delia Velasco, a human resource training specialist at UltraStar, had given Martinez information about the concert and then told the marketing department the Zozayas’ story to see if something special could be arranged, especially because Josef is a World War II veteran.
Originally from Flagstaff, Jeni met Joseph there after the war, when he came to town looking for a job. They wed in 1947 and have been married 71 years.
Martinez said she was “in shock” when she received a phone call telling her a meet-and-greet had been arranged with the Mexican star.
“We kept it a secret right until they were going to walk in to meet him,” she said. “Mom started crying and said, ‘I just love him,’ and Dad was excited as well. I think he was in shock.”
Jeni Zozaya said Josef doesn’t hear well in crowds but enjoyed the whole experience. She said Ayala still looks good. The last time she saw him, she said, was when she lived in California and he had a beard and long hair.
“When he met him, Dad stood there and just talked about his music and how he enjoys it,” Martinez said.
The music of Ayala, who will be 73 in December, is a bonding experience for the family. If Jeni’s in the car, there’s a good chance someone has his music playing. Martinez keeps his music on her phone, too.
“This was a special concert for them as we listened to his music daily and it brings back memories of when they were younger and life events that occurred,” Martinez said. “Mom and Dad danced all night holding onto their walkers and sang away. It was truly a blessed time to see them hold hands and have fun without any worries.”