Marcelino Ortega, director of Mariachi Perla de Occidente for over half a century, died April 24 after a long bout with kidney failure. Perla de Occidente is best known for accompanying Pedro Infante and Javier Solís, and as a training ground for groups like Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi México de Pepe Villa.
Sixty students from eight states across the U.S. participated in the Mariachi Extravaganza Summer Camp in 2014.
Registration is now open for the Mariachi Extravaganza Summer Vocal Camp set for June 22-26, 2015 at the brand new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts’ Carlos Álvarez Theater, in San Antonio, Texas. The camp will be led by an exciting team of instructors that includes Octavio Moreno and Vanessa Cerda Alonzo, both of whom play leading roles in the latest mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina. We also welcome college students Christina Maxwell from the University of Michigan and Samantha Arizpe from the University of Houston, who will assist with the camp.
Sebastien de la Cruz sings with cast of El Pasado Nunca se Termina
© 2015 Todd Rosenberg Photography
I was thrilled when Vanessa Cerda Alonzo joined the Houston Grand Opera’s cast for the first mariachi opera, Pepe Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, back in 2011. Over a decade earlier, at age 18, Vanessa had been chosen “Best Mariachi Vocalist” at the 1999 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio. Today, she’s performed with several of the nation’s most prestigious opera companies. As more and more opportunities like this open up, the future seems brighter than ever for winners of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza vocal competitions.
Seeing Vanessa in Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston in 2011 was beyond my wildest dreams. She was only billed as a cast member, but for me, Vanessa was the star of the show. UTPA’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán was also commissioned to participate in several community performances of Cruzar back then, while Mariachi Vargas was hired as the main attraction for the big shows.
The Latin Music Studies department of Texas State University presents its 16th annual Feria del Mariachi in San Marcos, Texas, on Friday and Saturday, May 1-2. The two-day event includes workshops, competitions, a concert, and a tribute.
This year’s Feria del Mariachi workshops, which begin Friday evening, will focus on the Mexican son in its distinct regional variations, such as the son jalisciense, son abajeño, and son jarocho. Mariachi legend Sergio Caratachea will be the lead instructor. In addition to ensemble workshops, solo vocal instruction will be offered to a limited number of registrants.
Since ancient times, motherhood has been honored through a variety of customs and practices. The Mother’s Day tradition we know today, however, is barely a century old. The United States began celebrating its Mother’s Day in 1908, and Mexico only began celebrating its Día de las Madres in 1922. U.S. Mother’s Day is always the second Sunday of May, while in Mexico, it’s always the 10th of May, so the two holidays often fall on different days of the week. This year, both occur on Sunday, May 10.
For mariachis everywhere, Mother’s Day and December 12, Virgin of Guadalupe Day, are the two most important workdays of the year, and it’s no coincidence these two holidays are dedicated to mothers. While most of us love our two parents equally, few would dispute that our mother is the most tender and nurturing, the one we bond to the most in childhood, and the one whose special day we tend to celebrate the most.
There’s much going on during the month of April in the world of mariachi music! Take your pick — mariachis with symphonies, mariachis with operas, or mariachi festivals. There are many choices on our plate today, thanks to a growing number of collaborations between various organizations and mariachi artists throughout the country. Here are my top three picks for this month:
This coming Mother’s Day weekend, Serenata para las Madres will pay a special tribute to our beloved mothers. This unique Mother’s Day serenade takes place on Saturday, May 9, at San Antonio’s Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. Headliners include international television artists Angélica Vargas of La Academia Kids, Jackelyn Barrera of La Voz Kids, and Vanessa Cerda Alonzo of Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.
Most MariachiMusic.com readers are already familiar with University of Texas-Pan American at Edinburg’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán. Truly in a class by itself, this is the most acclaimed ensemble to yet emerge from the U.S. mariachi educational movement that originated at UCLA in 1961. Mariachi Aztlán was founded in 1989 by Dr. Dahlia Guerra, who continues to oversee UTPA’s mariachi program. The group is currently under the direction of Prof. Francisco Loera. Over the past 15 years, this unparalleled assemblage of student musicians has won more first-place awards at more mariachi competitions than any other group in history. The most competitive of these is San Antonio’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, where for nearly two decades UTPA’s mariachi took top honors yearly, and where many of its members have served as workshop instructors. Mariachi Aztlán currently alternates with Mariachi Vargas as accompaniment for Pepe Martínez’s new mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina. The group’s latest CD, Mi Nombre es México, reaffirms Mariachi Aztlán’s preeminence as the world’s premier collegiate mariachi ensemble.
Jackie Barrera’s gives her award-winning performance of Pepe Guízar’s anthem “El Mariachi” at last November’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Jackelyn “Jackie” Barrera was selected by members of the world-renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán as the ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist in the U.S.’ at the 20th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio, Texas, in November of 2014. She is currently a student at Roma High School in Roma, Texas and a member of the JV Roma Mariachi Santander, the group that accompanies her on this video.
Jackie and I chatted during her visit recent to San Antonio. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk about her experiences on La Voz Kids, her selection as ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist’ and her plans for the future. Hope you enjoy the interview!
Mariachi Nueva Generación’s winning performance at last year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Winners of last year’s 20th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza received a total of $5,000 in scholarships and grants. Schools and individual recipients may use these funds for college scholarships and/or to support the continued study of mariachi music.