The Hemisfair Ballroom at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center was close to capacity minutes before their performance. More than 2,300 music educators, students, and parents sat in the audience awaiting a show that would be new to most. At 11:00 AM on Saturday, February 11th, the best 18 high school mariachi musicians in Texas took the stage. The color pallet suddenly turned from a dull grey to colors like bright blue, red, green, and purple, to name a few. The metal adornos on their trajes glittered as the light hit them; and the crowd cheered and chanted with every step they took. They settled in and adjusted their instruments and microphone stands carefully. The first violinist picked up her instrument and everyone else followed without hesitation. She maneuvered her bow in four swift counts to signal the start, and the music that sounded after her cue teleported all 2,300 audience members in an instant.
The TMEA all-state mariachi ensemble performing at the 2023 convention.
We were now in a Mexican border town listening joyfully to “El Corrido de Chihuahua”, and for about 40 minutes the ballroom toured all of Mexico song by song. From sones to huapangos, and rancheras to boleros – every note was played with precision and every lyric was sung with passion. They were not just playing music, they were telling us a story about a country and its culture. We heard from every corner of Mexico until the very end. The audience was farewelled with the mariachi classic “El Son de la Negra”, and after the last note, the room erupted in cheers and applause. All 18 musicians walked to the front of the stage and stood in a line as they attentively watched the first violinist who had led them diligently from start to finish as she raised her bow to cue the final bow. In return, the room gave them the standing ovation that they well deserved. For one last time, the audience was able to appreciate the array of different colors that stood in front of them. Each color represented not only each school, but also the hundreds of students and directors from all the different programs who had made it this far and shared a passion for this beautiful musical genre.
Mariachi music is not a mystery to anyone in Texas, but when exactly did it get to this level of showmanship? Many audience members that day left the ballroom speechless, amazed, or even confused. Part of this confusion could be attributed to the fact that this was only the third year the mariachi division had been part of the all-state ensembles. Not to mention, they were also dealing with the struggles of COVID-19 during their first year of performance. These student musicians were able to execute the act of singing beautiful lyrics, playing enchanting melodies, and performing dynamic theatrics all at the same time. “It seems like this year mariachi definitely got the attention it deserved at TMEA” (Eloy Garza, director of the Roma ISD mariachi program).
About the TMEA audition process
The audition process during which TMEA ranks students is somewhat complex. There are 2 levels that schools must move past in order to qualify for one of the 18 spots in the all-state mariachi ensemble. The first level that students will audition in is the “region” level where they will compete against other students in their designated region. There are 33 different regions in Texas in which students must select an instrument category that they will compete under (e.g. trumpet, violin, guitar, etc.). The students that excel within each region get selected by a panel of judges to compete in the “area” competition. During this competition, the students selected from each region then have to compete in their designated “area” which is made up of several regions. Finally, the top 18 students in the “area” are selected by judges to be part of and perform in the all-state mariachi ensemble.
- Edgar Salinas – Roma High School – Roma, TX
- Jacob Campos – Valley View High School – Hidalgo, TX
- Angel Trujillo – McAllen High School – McAllen, TX
- Destiny Martinez – Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy – Grand Prairie, TX
- Gabriela Cruz – Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy – Grand Prairie, TX
- Ximena Garcia-Alanis – Roma High School – Roma, TX
- Viviana Garcia – Roma High School – Roma, TX
- Alec Vazquez-Kenhere – Roma High School – Roma, TX
- Abigail Jimenez – Carter-Riverside HS – Fort Worth, TX
- Andrew Treviño – McAllen High School – McAllen, TX
- Joslyn Gomes – Edcouch-Elsa High School – Edcouch, TX
- Faith Nava – Edcouch-Elsa High School – Edcouch, TX
- Thomas Hernandez – Edcouch-Elsa High School – Edcouch, TX
- Anthony Lopez – Southwest Legacy High School – San Antonio, TX
- Nestor Aguado – North Side High School – Fort Worth, TX
- Angel Ayala – Kinder HSPVA – Houston, TX
- Abel Avila – Seguin High School – Seguin, TX
Guitarra de golpe
- Jeremiah Salazar – Edcouch-Elsa High School – Edcouch, TX
Although TMEA showcases the art of music performance by schools/students throughout all of Texas, an interesting thing to note about the mariachi ensemble this year is that more than half of its members were made up from students from the Rio Grande Valley. Both, the Edcouch-Elsa High School and the Roma High School mariachi programs had 4 qualifiers each; the McAllen High School mariachi program also had 2 qualifiers and the Valley View High School mariachi program (in Hidalgo) had 1. It seems like the Rio Grande Valley continues to lead the state in mariachi music education; however, it is also important to note that the Dallas-Fort Worth area made up a considerable amount of qualifiers as well – with the Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy and the North Side High School (in Fort Worth) mariachi programs having 2 each.
2023 All-state mariachi instructor
The 2023 ensemble was instructed by none other than Mariachi Cobre co-founder, Steve Carillo. Steve is a lifelong mariachi musician and founded Mariachi Cobre in 1971. Since then, Steve has established himself as one of the top mariachi musicians in the world while also being an outstanding composer, arranger, and clinician.
On behalf of its members and Texas students, TMEA carefully monitors the actions of all state decision-making bodies on issues affecting fine arts instruction in Texas. In addition to many member benefits, TMEA offers professional development opportunities for its members with Region workshops and especially with its annual Clinic/Convention. TMEA supports the future of music education by offering scholarships to music education majors and by sponsoring the Texas Future Music Educators, an organization through which high school students interested in careers in music education learn more about what to expect in their college education and future careers.