The three winners of the 2014 annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Original Songwriting Competition were announced at the November 22 gala concert. According to tradition, members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán judge this contest, and Alberto Alfaro and Carlos Martínez fulfilled that role this year. In an unprecedented decision, a single author, Felipe Romero, claimed both first and second place for two of his original compositions.
Twenty-five-year-old Felipe “Pike” Romero was born in Montebello, California and raised in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. He began playing the guitar at age 13, and he has been a mariachi musician since he was 14. Felipe describes himself as being “totally focused” on music. Mariachi Mujer 2000 recently recorded his catchy balada “Prohibido Olvidarte,” which took first place in the competition, on their CD Corazón de Mujer. “Cómo Lastima,” the song that took second place, is vaguely reminiscent of José Alfredo Jiménez’s “Pedro el Herrero.” It hasn’t been commercially recorded yet, but it’s probable that soon we’ll be hearing this magnificent huapango in the voice of some major artist.
Third place in this year’s competition went to Cassandra Trejo for her tropical-flavored “¿Qué Piensas Tú?” Born in the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico, Cassandra began her musical career as a mariachi violinist. Her debut album Sueño en Vida, under the musical direction of Steeven Sandoval with arrangements by Rigoberto Alfaro, was released in 2013. Cassandra has received numerous awards for her vocal artistry, both in the U.S. and Mexico. Her stated lifelong mission is to “preserve mariachi culture for future generations.”
You can experience Cassandra performing “¿Qué Piensas Tú?” in duet with Juan Romero on YouTube. It’s an uplifting balada about how love can conquer all obstacles. Cassandra describes it as “a conversation sung between two people in love. They express their eternal devotion for each other and conclude that as a team, there’s nothing they can’t conquer,” she explains.
Judges Alberto Alfaro and Carlos Martínez
Honorable mention this year goes to songwriter Trini Campbell Martínez. Trini submitted three original compositions, two of which provided stiff competition for this year’s winners. We can hardly wait to hear what she brings to the competition next year!
This year’s contest had an unprecedented number of entries (15), and the overall quality of the compositions was higher than ever before. If you are a songwriter, start thinking about submitting an original work of yours in next year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Original Songwriting Competition.