Every year, students of all ages participate in an assortment of competitions of many disciplines. While many compete, not everyone can win. So what does it take to be a winner? The number one quality that anyone looking to make it the top must have is dedication. For the students at Ramiro Barrera Middle School of Roma, Texas, it is no coincidence that they continue to dominate at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
For the third consecutive year, Ramiro Barrera’s Mariachi Juvenil Santander has taken the top prize in the annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Group Competition’s middle school category. A part of the critically acclaimed and successful Roma ISD Mariachi Program, Mariachi Juvenil Santander is under the direction of Antonio Delgadillo. For this past year’s performance at the Extravaganza, their song selections included their own “Tema” and the huapango “A La Luz de Los Cocuyos,” a song written and performed by José Alfredo Jimenez.
Mariachi Juvenil Santander were not the only Roma ISD mariachi program to find success at the 2019 Extravaganza. Mariachi Escandón, under the direction of Abiel Hinojosa from their sister program at Roma Middle School, joined Juvenil Santander on the winners platform and were awarded 2nd place in the National Group Competition’s middle school category. Both of these groups feed into the well-known mariachi program of Roma High School, where two performance groups are featured. Roma High has both Mariachi Santander, their Junior Varsity group which made it to the top seven at the Extravaganza’s High School Group Finals, and the gem of them all — the nationally recognized and award winning Mariachi Nuevo Santander. This past year Mariachi Nuevo Santander took back their national title and beat our 23 other schools to place 1st in the Extravaganza’s National Group Competition’s high school category, and won an all-expenses-paid trip to spend a week-long residency with the University Musical Society (UMS) at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
So what is it that makes the Roma ISD mariachi programs the powerhouse that they are? The key to their success lies within the discipline that has been implemented by the head of the mariachi program, Eloy Garza, who serves as director of the program’s high school groups. Garza’s own discipline comes from years of mariachi experience and his participation in successful programs such as the UTPA Mariachi (now known as UTRGV’s Mariachi Aztlán), and his time spent touring with Luis Miguel as part of Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández. It is the lessons that he has learned along the way that have helped him develop and mold his mariachi curriculum and make sure that this knowledge is taught at all levels of the Roma ISD mariachi program.
Roma works with the idea of “one program, one family, one tradition” and has turned the program as a whole into one unified group that supports each other no matter what. Garza has helped form both Hinojosa and Delgadillo’s programs, where the discipline begins on day one when students first join the mariachi. The first week of school, the middle school-level students are taught the procedures that will be required of them to be a part of this elite program. Learning how they are expected to walk into the classroom, where their instruments are located and how they are expected to set up for class each day are the first tasks they learn. While this may seem like a no-brainer, easy task for some, not everyone can make it through this step, and some instead choose to opt out. Those who do remain take advantage of everything they are taught and continue to help Roma grow the success of its mariachi.
The ability to work as one familial unit leads to the students being influenced not just by the directors who drive each generation of students to succeed, but also the generations of mariachi students who have come before them. When one sees greatness, they strive to be just as good and keep the prestige behind the name that they represent. Alongside winning awards for their multiple groups, Roma also has produced multiple Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Grand Champion vocalists such as Mayra Guerra (2002), Karenn Lazo (2010), Jackelyn Barrera (2014) and Alexa Posas (2015), along with many 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place vocalists in the middle and high school categories.
The children of today are growing up in fast paced world where instant gratification is now common, and they are used to receiving awards just for participating. The performing arts, be it music, dance or acting, are crafts that take time to nurture and cannot be mastered from one day to the next. It is the desire for greatness that has helped set apart the Roma ISD mariachi program and made it the fine-tuned machine that it is today.
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The Mariachimusic.com online newsletter is a monthly email blast that has now gone weekly in effort to provide the community with news, information and videos featuring great performances from numerous mariachi artists and previous participants of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Enjoy this content as you continue to keep your families safe and secure during this current Covid-19 outbreak. If you have stories you’d like to share about your experiences in mariachi music, and/or how you and your group are coping during this Covid-19 crisis, please feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected stories will be posted on the mariachimusic.com website in the blog section and shared via the weekly email newsletters.
Content and videos shared through the Mariachimusic.com online newsletter is made possible through the generous support of Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza sponsors Gonzaba Medical Group, H.E.B. and Valero Energy. Thanks to these companies who invest in the Latino community and who are helping to keep our cultural traditions alive.