Legendary trumpeter Federico Torres was honored in a special presentation during the 5th Annual International Mariachi Conference held at the University of San Diego (USD), March 10 & 11, 2017. The presentation was held Friday, March 10, at 10 a.m. in the Shiley Theatre of the USD Camino Hall music building, and was open to the public.
“I wanted to present Federico as the opening event of the workshops, so students can meet him when they arrive, and know more about this renowned musician they’d be interacting with over the next two days,” says conference director Serafín Paredes.
Federico explains: “It was more of an informal talk than a formal conference. The public asked lots of questions, and my ex-compañero Rigoberto Alfaro was be there to help me fill in some of the gaps. My good friend Jonny Clark, whom I’ve known for 40 years, moderated and projected photos. I wish there were more opportunities like this, because there’s a important need to share historical mariachi information.”
Federico Torres Martínez was born in Guadalajara, where he studied the trumpet as a boy and where, by age 14, he was already playing with professional mariachis. By age 16 he had moved to Mexico City and joined the famous Mariachi Perla de Occidente, where his bandmates included Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar, Rigoberto Alfaro, and Juan Pinzón, all of whom he would eventually play with in Mariachi Vargas. After leaving Perla, Federico worked with Mariachi América de Alfredo Serna, Mariachi Nacional de Arcadio Elías, and Mariachi Tolteca de Miguel Martínez.
In late 1966, Federico joined the world-famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, where for the next half century he would perform, tour, and record with el mejor mariachi del mundo, and accompany the greatest vocalists in ranchera music. In 2014, the year he retired from Vargas, Federico was inducted into Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque’s Mariachi Hall of Fame. He was also honored by San Antonio’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, New York City’s Mariachi Conservatory, and Mariachi Tapatío de Álvaro Paulino.
Besides Federico Torres, other instructors for this two-day music conference included Rigoberto Alfaro, Juan Manuel Arpero, Sergio Caratachea, Javier Rodríguez and members of University of Texas Río Grande Valley’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán. Workshops were held in USD’s Camino Hall music building.
The USD mariachi conference presented two evening concerts. Friday’s Student Showcase featured high school groups and concluded with Mariachi Juvenil de San Diego, directed by Serafín Paredes. Saturday’s Concert Presentation opened with conference participants performing all the music they had studied during their two days of classes, followed by the four best high school groups chosen from the previous evening’s concert: Mariachi Chula Vista High School, Mariachi Nuevo Agua Dulce, Mariachi Miztli, and Mariachi Leones de Pacoima. Headliner groups were Mariachi Los Toreros de USD, Mariachi Aztlán, Mariachi Los Reyes featuring guest trumpeter Juan Manuel Arpero, and — direct from Guadalajara — Mariachi Sol de América. Both concerts were held in USD Camino Hall’s Shiley Theatre, and were well-attended.
Juan Manuel Arpero
Juan Manuel Arpero Ramírez is not a mariachi musician per se, but among trumpet players in general he is considered un maestro de los maestros. In addition to performing twice with Mariachi Los Reyes, maestro Arpero gave a master class for all the USD mariachi conference trumpet students.
The following day (Sunday, March 12), in neighboring National City, oceanside Pepper Park was the site of an all-day, outdoor mariachi festival sponsored by the National City Chamber of Commerce. This free event ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Featured was a high school mariachi competition where the winning group was Mariachi Miztli. There groups to perform were Mariachi Garibaldi (dir. Jeff Nevin), Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista (dir. Mark Fogelquist), Mariachi Juvenil de San Diego (dir. Serafín Paredes), Mariachi Aztlán (dir. Francisco Loera), and Mariachi Los Reyes (dir. Javier Rodríguez) with special guest Juan Manuel Arpero. Mariachi Sol de América topped the bill. There was folkloric dancing, entertainment for children, and what the festival’s organizers described as “a celebration of arts, culture, and culinary delights.”
More information may be obtained on the National City Mariachi Festival website.