The University of Texas at San Antonio is the largest university in the city with more than 30,000 students enrolled in the fall of 2019. Located in one of the cities with the highest percentage of Hispanics in the country, it is no surprise that this institution has its own mariachi program.
UTSA’s Mariachi Los Paisanos is directed by mariachi musician and trumpet player Michael Acevedo. Acevedo is a native from McAllen, Texas, and has an extensive background in not just mariachi, but music in general. He earned his bachelors in music education at the University of Texas at Kingsville, where he played with Mariachi Javelina. After finishing his undergrad, he went on to pursue his masters in music at UT Austin while directing the school’s Mariachi Tejastitlán. His primary instrument is the trumpet.
Acevedo was hired to direct Mariachi Los Paisanos back in 2011. That same year, the group competed at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza where they ended up placing 3rd in the college/university category. This year the group returns to the 25th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza where they will be competing against last years winners San Antonio College, among other university groups.
Since UTSA competed in the Extravaganza, 8 years ago to be exact, Los Paisanos has been performing in the same trajes. “Our old trajes are not bad, just a bit worn out. We used them last semester for our recital, however, this year, due to an increase in new members, we needed something new,” said Hector Lara, guitarist of the group. “I’m so excited and thankful that we are getting new trajes this year. I can’t wait!”
Last spring, Dr. Stan Renard, director of the music marketing program at UTSA, took the initiative to start recruiting efforts and a fundraising campaign for the mariachi group. Using crowdfunding tools provided by the University, and with the help of Acevedo and its members, the group reached its goal of $10,000 to purchase new trajes and more than doubled its membership.
Another project that Dr. Renard implemented during the spring of 2019 was that of starting a community group. The idea behind this was that there are many people in the community that love playing mariachi music but do not have time to perform with professional local groups since they usually play late at night. By joining the UTSA community group with a small registration fee, these individuals are able to rehearse and perform with Los Paisanos within reasonable hours. All registration fees paid by community members are used to fund the mariachi program.
Los Paisanos have had a busy schedule since receiving support from the University.The group has performed at a variety of different venues including the Institute of Texan Cultures, the UTSA commencement ceremonies and the 50th anniversary of UTSA at the Tobin Center of the Performing Arts. The group will close out VIA’s Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations at the Centro Plaza in Downtown San Antonio.
“The future looks bright for the group. Everyone in the group is excited and ready to kick things up a notch. Every semester we get new members that are more and more talented. If we keep the momentum going and take advantage of the support that the administration is giving us, Mariachi Los Paisanos will become one of the premiere mariachi groups in not only the city, but the whole state,” says Leon Camacho, guitarist and vocalist of the group.
Overall, thanks to the new leadership within UTSA – like its fairly new President – Dr. Taylor Eighmy, along with the new Chair of the Music Department – Dr. Tracy Cowden – and head of the Music Business program Dr. Stan Renard, things are starting to shape up around UTSA and its mariachi music program. There is strong support among key leaders within the University to grow the mariachi music program at UTSA. This new slate of people have a strong desire to be the best of the best and grow the University throughout. In addition, these are individuals who recognize the uniqueness of the music and the culture that is so important to students and the community here at UTSA and in San Antonio.
“Mariachi is so important to this region, and as the largest public university in San Antonio, we are proud to represent this wonderful music through our Mariachi Los Paisanos” said Tracy Cowden. “The Department of Music looks forward to watching the ensemble develop this year, especially with their preparations for the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza!”
Mariachi music is one of the elements of Mexican culture that makes up San Antonio, and it is important that schools like UTSA and SAC can represent colleges and universities with mariachi music programs at this year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Mariachi Los Paisanos will be having a recital in November to close out the fall semester. If you would like to know more about the mariachi, or be a part of the UTSA community mariachi program please visit music.utsa.edu/or call (210) 458-4354.
We look forward to seeing everyone at this year’s Extravaganza. If you haven’t registered yet, be sure to to do so by October 31 to lock in the best rate!