Kamryn Ramírez, Jackie Barrera and Alexa Posas
Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition winners Alexa Posas, Kamryn Ramírez and Jackie Barrera recently performed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thanks to the University Musical Society (UMS), a presenting arts organization, and Muñoz Public Relations (MPR), producers of the annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. This trio of champion vocalists participated in a three-day residency program and opened for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán at the prestigious Hill Auditorium on the campus of the University of Michigan (UM). Accompanying the trio were Alex Treviño on guitar and René Benavidez on guitarrón. These artists would like to share the following special memories of their Ann Arbor tour with mariachimusic.com readers.
What were some of your happiest moments — things that made you smile?
Jackie: “I really liked sitting in on the performing class at UM. We had the opportunity to see students sing, and I was especially inspired by this one girl who sang “The Hot Dog Song” from Bullets over Broadway. She had a jazzy style and a New York accent, and was filled with lots of expression and emotion. Her performance motivated me to give it my all on Friday night at the Hill Auditorium. It was especially interesting to hear her professor’s comments. He wanted an even stronger New York accent, and wanted her to smile more and be even more cute!”
Alexa: “I really liked going to Grace in Action — a non-profit organization located in Southwest Detroit. It was fun to share our art form with other students. There was a group of young, teenage, male break-dancers that gave an impressive performance, and a guy by the name Carlitos who recited a poem all by heart. The poem was about how he was determined to overcome challenges, and the expectation to fail. We left with the impression that Grace in Action provides a positive environment in a neighborhood that really needs the arts as a way of expression.”
Kamryn: “We loved performing at the UM Student Center and we loved Larry — the jolly, bearded Puerto Rican professor. I wish I could shrink him and put him in a box and put him in my pocket! He was so positive, attentive, expressive, happy and excited about our music.”
Jackie: “We loved NALAC’s VIP reception and how Ken Fisher acknowledged all of us that came from Texas. He made us feel really special, and this definitely put a smile on my face!”
Alexa: “We loved Hannah the make up artist. She explained to us how she was studying voice, but how she realized that she really wanted to be a make-up artist. She was really nice and we appreciated her helping us with our make-up backstage prior to the concert.”
René Benavidez: “One of my favorite moments was having lunch with Mariachi Juvenil de Detroit. One of the young girls named Camila wanted help with a joropo strum. I showed her how to do it, and I was impressed that she picked it up really fast. She was very interested in mariachi and asked a lot of good questions. She felt like this was a once in a lifetime moment that we had this time together.”
All: “Seeing Christina Maxwell was a happy moment. We loved the gift bags she gave us, and she was kind enough to give us a tour of the downtown area. And she was so encouraging with us backstage. We felt like we were at home at her apartment. Christina is so considerate, kind, positive, beautiful, talented and all. We absolutely love her and appreciated all that she did for us. Her parents are amazing, and she was fabulous!”
Alex Treviño: “The elementary school performances were awesome. Seeing the students’ reactions to the girls’ performances at the schools was something very special to watch, especially considering that most of the kids had never been exposed to mariachi music. The fact that they sat there attentively throughout the entire performance, and then engaged in conversation about what they witnessed, really attests to their community’s commitment to their education. They absolutely enjoyed our music and it made me feel like this is what Ann Arbor is all about. It’s a city that embraces music and the arts, and that support is channeled into the schools, where students start learning how to play musical instruments at a very young age and, in turn, also learn to love and appreciate many different musical genres.”
Kamryn: “Reading the letters written to us by the students.”
Kamryn Ramírez, Alexa Posas, Jackie Barrera and Christina Maxwell
What was your first impression of Ann Arbor?
All: “The people were so welcoming from the very moment we stepped off the plane and met Ann and Saba. Everyone was so nice from arrival to departure. The city is really pretty, the weather was amazing, and the walkways between the buildings with shops was really cool. It’s a beautiful city!”
What was your most memorable moment of the tour?
Jackie: “Performing with the ballet folklórico during the Vargas concert at the Hill Auditorium. The crowd loved it!”
Alexa: “Performing at Mitchell Elementary School. The students were so receptive to our music, and we loved listening to them play as well.”
Kamryn: “Performing with Alexa and Jackie in the trio ‘Cerca de Mar’.”
What did you like most about the trip?
Jackie: “Getting to meet new people who had such a great interest in our culture, including Terri, Jim, Anne and everyone at UMS, as well as the students. Ricardo and Víctor — Beto’s brothers who played violin during the trio — were wonderful to meet as well.”
Alexa: “Getting to bond with Jackie, Kamryn, René and Alex!”
Kamryn: “Getting flowers from the kids during the student show on Friday morning and hearing positive feedback from Vargas in regards to the trio. They said we blended so beautifully with each other, and that our performance was spot-on!”
What’s the most important thing you learned on this trip?
Jackie: “Thanks to Christina, I learned the power of being positive.”
Alexa: “That the love and interest and growth for mariachi music programming is spreading throughout the U.S.”
Kamryn: “I never had much experience with public speaking before, so I learned how important this is to my overall performance.”
How did you feel after performing on Friday night?
Jackie: “I felt special, and I’m looking forward to doing it again!”
Alexa: “Empowered, honored, grateful, blessed, humbled.”
Kamryn: “It went by really fast…. It was an amazing feeling!”
Questions from students
Q: What is your band called?
A: Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Competition Winners.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
Q: How old are you all?
A: Kamryn and Jackie are 16, and Alexa is 17 years old.
Q: What schools do you go to?
A: Alexa and Jackie go to Roma High School in Roma, Texas. Kamryn goes to McAllen High School in McAllen, Texas.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Alexa likes enchiladas, Jackie likes pizza and Kamryn like the nuggets at Chick-fil-A!
Letters from students
“Thank you for coming to Carpenter. I love your music and costumes.”
“I loved your music! It was so awesome! Thanks for coming to our school and performing. We love you and we hope you perform good tomorrow.”
“Your music was amazing. Thank you for coming to our school, because without you guys, we would not have beautiful music.”
Closing comment from the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Competition Winners
“All of us just want to say thanks to the team at UMS for a phenomenal event last week. The coordination was flawless, the hospitality fabulous, the marketing excellent, the crowd blown away — and we all returned to Texas with a life-changing experience. We greatly appreciate all that you and your team did to make it an enjoyable and unforgettable trip!”
—Alexa, Kamryn and Jackie
Please leave your comments below!