Congratulations to La Joya, Texas native Mellanie Olivares who was selected as the Grand Champion Vocalist during the 27th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in 2021. Her award-winning song – Yo Nací Pa Cantar – is a song she loves because it expresses how she feels towards mariachi music and her Latina heritage. She especially loves the part that sings – Ay yo nací pa cantar, le canto a mi tierra, mi raza querida, digan lo que digan soy Mexicana de corazon, digan lo que digan soy Mexicana de corazón, y mi mariachi es lo MEJOR.
“Ever since I was a kid, I would see my family play mariachi music as well as other musical styles,” says Melanie. “I come from a very musical family, from both sides of my family. I believe that growing up, surrounded by music, sparked my interest at a very young age. It has become a tradition to be a part of music programs throughout secondary school,” she says.
“The individual that influenced me the most was my grandfather. I would always see him playing his accordion at every family gathering/event. He would play with such passion that it made me love music, which encouraged me to join orchestra in middle school. He would always encourage all of his grandchildren to join music programs, if that is what they wished to do,” says Mellanie.
According to Mellanie’s vocal coach, Vanessa Alonzo, Mellanie’s voice is very unique. “Melanie has developed a rich and earthy tone and she’s not afraid to try new techniques. She has a good range and great support,” says Vanessa.
“Mellanie is a wonderful musician and throughout the past few years, we have worked on different techniques such as breathing, stage presence and interpretation. She understands the importance of telling a story and being sincere, and this, along with her desire to keep learning and becoming a better performer, has all come together quite nicely,” she adds.
Mellanie’s support team present during the MVE included people who have influenced her love for mariachi like her directors – Mr. Martin Cantu, Mrs. Aldape, Mr. Escobedo and Ms. Dominga Garza.
“The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza vocal competition in December was in full force,” says Dominga Garza. Seeing so many eager and talented contestants preparing to hit the stage to compete was amazing. There were students representing so many schools and it was incredible to see all of the families from all across the nation come out to support their students. I felt a lot of pride that our two students – Mellanie and Natalee were representing La Joya High School and La Joya ISD,” she says. “The talent was endless from one great performance to another and the competition ran really smooth,” she says.
La Joya ISD has over 60 high school students and 40 middle school students in the mariachi program, says Martin Cantu who has served as the Mariachi Director for LJISD for 7 years. “The program has grown significantly since I’ve been here,” says Martin. “More students from the area audition and register for the JV and beginner classes, with hopes of advancing the varsity ensemble. In LJHS, specifically, our focus is to expose our students to the community, not necessarily compete. Every year, we attract thousands of community members to our annual concerts – one in November and one in February with hundreds of people in attendance. It’s a great opportunity for our students to perform in front of a live audience. We’re proud of Mellanie and of all of our students for their hard work, dedication and love for mariachi music,” says Cantu.
Mellanie is a student at La Joya High School. She plans to attend the University of Texas Rio-Grande Valley where she will be majoring in education and hopes to continue playing mariachi with UTRGV’s Mariachi Aztlán. Her dream is to earn a master’s in educational leadership and start her own professional mariachi group to continue spreading the beauty of mariachi music in South Texas.
Mellanie is the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship from the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. This is the largest scholarship awarded to a grand champion vocal winner in the history of the MVE thanks to sponsors that included Cano Health, H-E-B, KHS America and Whataburger.
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is a production of San Antonio based MPR (Muñoz Public Relations).