Thanks to Alex Trevino, Mariachi Director at McAllen High School in McAllen, Texas for contributing this post.
The entire world came to a stop and life as we knew it took a different turn amid the Covid-19 Pandemic in mid-March of 2020. So many people were affected by the situation and it especially hit us hard in the music world. Specifically, music groups in the schools were not able to function as they normally did with regular classes, after school rehearsals, sectionals, practices, gigs, performances, contests, concert productions, and many other live performance events that students and directors all look forward to. The initial shock was tough to get over but, notwithstanding, as musicians and artists that we are, we had to find a way to keep the music alive one way or another all the while having to follow directives from our school districts as well as from government agencies both the state and federal levels. As shown time and time again, Mariachi musicians are amongst the most creative and soon figured out a way to still put on their annual clinic and concert!
It all started with world-class clinicians holding their clinics virtually and students being able to be a part of them and access them through YouTube and similar platforms in the month of June. Over the next few weeks in July, students practiced & prepared and directors worked with them virtually as they honed their skills, improved their technique, interpretation, and really stepped up to the challenge of the huge undertaking that is distance recording. Once they were ready, students began submitting their videos to their directors for review & approval and they, in turn, submitted them for our production team of students and region officers to extract and mix the audio for a good balance between vocalists and instrumentalists to replicate what our usual live concert productions would normally sound like.
The videos were all put together again, merged with the mixed audio, and focused on highlighting all of our students in key sections of the pieces to give it a more personal touch.
Approximately 100 students participated in this project, which was condensed from the usual 2.5-hour live concert featuring 4 performance groups, into a 30-minute virtual concert where we combined them into 2 groups: Middle School & High School as well as a Grand Combined Finale!
The virtual concert was released at 7:30 PM on Saturday, August 15, 2020 for parents, friends, families, schools, and communities to enjoy! More than anything, students enjoyed and truly appreciated being able to still have their clinic and concert even if in a virtual manner. The fact that all of their hard work throughout the arduous preparation & TMEA blind audition process throughout the school year to get to this level did not go to waste is what makes this extra special!
Please take some time to watch this beautiful and riveting performance by South Texas’ talented middle school & high school TMEA Region 15 Mariachi students and feel free to share!
TMEA Region 15 directors, students, and parents hope that you enjoy this spectacular, first-ever Region performance of its kind and that y’all are doing great with your family and loved ones!
Time stamps have been included in the post description if you want to get to the good parts and skip through the narration, as enjoyable as it may be! Also, below are the guest clinicians involved as well as production credits:
(Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán)
*Jesús “Chuy” Hernández
(Retired Mariachi Sol de México)
(Mariachi Sol de México)
(Mariachi Sol de México)
(University of Texas in Austin) *Vanessa Alonzo
(Houston Grand Opera)
*Dr. Richard Carranza
(Chancellor of The Department of Education for New York City Schools)
Producers: Alex Treviño & Jacob Contador
Executive Producers: TMEA Region 15 Officers (Alex Treviño, Martín Cantú, Juan López, Frank Vela) & Region 15 Mariachi Directors
Audio Mix & Video Editing: Jacob Contador
Assistant Video Editing:
Time Stamps for easy reference to the song selections:
Combined Middle School Groups:
*El Son Del Ausente
*La Calandria (Huapango)
Comp. Nicandro Castillo/Arr. Carlos Martínez @11:28 marker
Combined High School Groups:
*Los Capires (Son Michoacano)
Traditional/Arr. José Hernández/Jorge Contreras
*No Me Mires Así (Bolero) Composed: Chris Maldonado & Arranged: Brígido Lagunes
*Carretera de Ensenada (Ranchera)
Composed: Severo Mirón & Arranged: Rubén Fuentes
Combined MS & HS Ensembles:
*El Son de La Negra
S. Vargas/R. Fuentes
Student Thoughts and Feedback:
What do you feel was the most special thing about being able to put on this TMEA Virtual Concert collaborating with 100 of the top mariachi students in South Texas and how does it compare to putting on a concert up on stage in front of a live audience?
“One the most special things to me about being able to put on this virtual concert was being able to bring everyone together from their homes all across the Valley to put together a region concert in a way that’s never been done before. It was amazing to share that experience with so many talented students across the Valley that have the same passion for music, and although it’s definitely a completely different experience to put on a virtual concert rather than an in person concert, it was still very rewarding when we finally got to see the finished product with all the familiar faces that we’d usually be seeing in person up on stage from year to year. Of course, I really do miss performing for a live audience but, under the circumstances, knowing that as a group we were still able to bring smiles to people’s faces by sharing our music made it all worth it.” -Ashley N. Treviño (McAllen HS)
What was the most memorable part of being part of a virtual production this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
“Being part of this virtual production is a very memorable moment to me because it’s something that I have never done before. The part of being able to collaborate with students from all over the valley on various songs while being at home makes it an experience that I will never forget. You see the performance only from your instrument and your angle and rely on someone to put the pieces together to make it sound like a group, which is truly remarkable.”
–Anyssa D. Rentería (Roma HS)
What did you most enjoy about the process of being a part of this virtual concert?
“It was an honor and a privilege to perform amongst the great talents of the Río Grande Valley. The music was fun to play and the virtual clinicians were amazing!”
-Joel Sánchez (Edinburg North HS)
What do you miss the most about performing live on the big stage, in front of a packed house, and how does performing virtually help fill that void?
“What I miss the most about performing live on a big stage is seeing the joy on the audience’s faces. Seeing the audience for sure is something that I look forward to every time I preform up on stage. Singing to them and telling them the stories of loves found and lost and seeing their expressions really is an amazing thing. Singing virtually helps with feeling some of that again due to connecting with the audience through the screen. Of course, it’s not quite the same since that connection is one-sided on the surface but I try my best to express my emotions through the screen to get the audience engaged with me and I visualize them being there live.”
-Natalie Carmona (McAllen HS)
In a few words, tell us how you prepared for this virtual collaboration concert as opposed to preparing for a traditional concert on stage. Was it the same process or did you do anything differently?
“In reality, I felt the same way practicing for the virtual concert as I would have for a live concert, memorizing the words prior to the due date for my video to be sent, getting ready and looking nice for the concert. The only things that were different were, obviously, working from home and less stage fright.” –Sofía Ozuna (Río Grande City HS)
What can you say was your overall experience participating in the TMEA Region 15 Mariachi Virtual Concert by contributing not only your musical talents to the project but also your skills with audio mixing and video editing?
“My overall experience with the virtual concert was unique and I hold it close to my heart, as this is the first time that anything like this has been pulled off by TMEA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I definitely feel honored for representing Edinburg HS with pride in this prestigious concert and for my selection by the TMEA Region 15 Mariachi Officers to help put this special project together. Mixing the audio and videos together for hundreds of submissions for a full-scale concert was no easy task, but I’m elated that me and the rest of my peers that participated could make this concert a possibility for all to enjoy!” -Jacob Contador (Edinburg HS)
What will you always take with you out of being a part of the very first TMEA Virtual Region Concert of any kind?
“What I take from being a part of the very first TMEA Virtual Region Concert is that although we all are going through this pandemic, having the will to want to do something is a very important quality everyone that participated in the concert had. We did not let a world pandemic stop us from coming together virtually to continue to make great music. As so many others, I’ve been hit hard by this pandemic being that I haven’t been able to socialize with my friends, but this really opened my mind to new ways of communication, socializing, and making music, especially with this virtual concert. I’d like to thank all of our Region 15 Mariachi Directors for pushing through for us with their vision and never giving up hope in the process of making this clinic and concert a reality. It really means a lot to all of us!” -Jesús Villegas (McAllen HS)
We at MPR would like to wish everyone the best but most of all we wish everyone good health and safety during todays current world climate. Please continue to stay safe by exercising the necessary COVID-19 precautions and helping to better the situation. We continue to hope for speedy recoveries and send well wishes to all of those who have been affected by the virus. Everyone is in our thoughts and we can’t wait until the day when we can all gather again to enjoy the beautiful mariachi music that helps us stay connected to each other.