As I walked up the third floor of the American Bank Center Selena Auditorium where the mariachi vocal competitions were held, 9-year old San Antonio student Nizhoni Begay had just started belting out Cucurrucucú paloma. She was the final contestant to perform in the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festivals vocal competition held Friday, March 7. Only a dozen people remained in the room by the time Nizhoni was called up to compete at 10 p.m.. Juan Sanchez, the organizer of the competition and a hand full of Nizhonis family members who came from as far away as Tucson, Arizona were among the audience to cheer her on. Nizhoni got a big hug from her mom, me, her teary-eyed grandfather, Leon Feliciano and great-grandfather, Gilbert Araneta following her performance. The later two had seen Nizhoni compete for the first time that evening and were quite emotional as they beamed with pride over her performance.
Following the vocal competition, we all walked down to the main theater to see a final performance with Nizhoni and the rest of the mariachi group from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC). The GCAC mariachi was one of 35 groups participating in the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festival, and like many, it took months of planning and preparation for them to compete. The students performed throughout the community in January and February to raise enough funds to attend the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festival. They performed at a private party for attorney Wayne Wright, for the grand opening of San Antonio National Bank branch and for the San Antonio Charro Association. Generous contributions from these individuals and organizations, combined with the formation of an organized parental support group, a strong mariachi director, an excellent executive director and commitment from the students, resulted in the groups participation. It takes total commitment from the directors, parents, students and community in order for groups to participate in events like the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festival and in the end, its all worth it. The students create new friendships that result in long-lasting relationships while showcasing their talents and competing in a friendly atmosphere. They get to participate in mariachi music workshops, competitions and see Mariachi Vargas in concert.
GCAC Mariachi CC 08 photo: The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s mariachi group is one of 35 mariachi groups who participated in the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festival held March 6-8.
Nizhoni BW CC 08: Nizhoni Begay is one of 40 students who competed in the mariachi vocal competition as part of the Coastal Bend Mariachi Festival held March 6-8 in Corpus Christi’s Selena Auditorium. Nizhoni is a member of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Centers mariachi group based in San Antonio, Texas.
Several winning groups opened for Mariachi Vargas Saturday night to a sold-out audience. Those groups included Stephen F. Austin Academy and Irving Middle school both from San Antonio. Edinburg High School’s Mariachi Primer Orgullo won first in the high school category and Texas A&M Kingsville’s Mariachi Javelina also performed prior to the concert. Mariachi Azucenas from the Rio Grande Valley was a hit with the Corpus Christi crowd that was pleasantly surprised to see an all-female mariachi group performing with excellent musicians and vocalists. The evening ended with at least five standing ovations during Mariachi Vargas performance. People walked out of the theater with a higher level of knowledge and understanding for what mariachi music is today, said Juan Sanchez with Coastal Bend Community College. Our community has a much greater appreciation of mariachi music now that they Ive experienced the world’s best with Mariachi Vargas.
Lots of good people who are dedicated to mariachi music education helped make this event happen including group competition and workshop organizers Juan Sanchez, Joe Solis and John Vela. The event was also a success due to the support from sponsors such as Wells Fargo, Valero and Sames Crow Ford Lincoln Mercury and additional support from Meryl Lynch and mariachimusic.com. What happened this weekend in Corpus Christi is significant in that we established an event that will be sure to take place annually in the market for years to come.