From Texas Public Radio:
The future of vocal Mariachi music convened recently at the Tobin Center’s Carlos Alvarez Theater to fine-tune their vocals and elevate their performances.
From pre-teens up to 24 years of age, young people worked to overcome their backstage jitters. They were guided by teachers as they ran through scales to warm up to the Mariachi Extravaganza Vocal Summer Recital.
Vanessa Alonzo is one of the lead instructors.
“My grandmother used to sing and my dad likes to compose songs and sing, but I am the main mariachi singer in the family,” she said.
Alonzo has also performed in three Mariachi Operas with the Houston Grand Opera, as well as operas in Minnesota, Chicago, and San Diego. Despite her incredible accomplishments, she says she really enjoys teaching young Mariachi fans.
Most of the 44 participants took Master Classes with one of those teachers, including 17-year-old student Carolina Rodriguez.
“I’ve been singing for about six or seven years already, since I started in sixth grade,” Rodriguez said.
Like most of these ambitious singers, Rodriguez attended mariachi classes at school. But she cited her interest in it as starting with her family.
“I started hearing mariachi because of my grandfather. And ever since then, I really like the sense of performance and seeing my uncles and my aunts performing on stages, she said. “So I was like, ‘I want to be like that one day.’”
She sang for Master Class instructor Octavio Moreno, who liked what he heard.
“This is in pretty good shape. I’d encourage you to practice it as if it was bolero to elongate the vowels, shorten consonants,” he said.
Teaching these Master Classes is a major pleasure for Moreno.
“We encounter many, many fine instruments, some of them almost finely tuned and some of them in the raw. But that really represent a promise,” Moreno said.
Rodriguez seemed pleased with her Master Class, and has set her future sights.
“I want to attend the UTRGV, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley,” Rodriguez said. “I want to hopefully be in Mariachi Aztlan, and I want to get my doctorate degree in music education.”
These master classes and rehearsals for the summer recital started on June 26 and culminated in the performance on June 30th.
“I’ve been singing since I was in sixth grade, so that’s about 7 years,“ Neyalli Peña said. “My voice is my main instrument, but I do also play the harp and the guitar.”
Most of these young singers play musical instruments, and some play several. Peña is wearing a dramatic red dress with flowers stitched all through it.
“This dress was actually my mom’s and she repurposed it and we just added all of these applications onto here,” she said.
Finally, it was showtime. The host Alexa Posas greeted those who came.
“Are you already for tonight’s show?” she said to large applause, as the music started.
One after the next came to the stage and performed with surprising ability and confidence.
Gianna Gonzalez spoke beforehand about what Mariachi has come to mean to her.
“I think this organization really brings out the culture and it connects us with our roots,” Gonzalez said. “It really shows us how like tradition and how fruitful the culture is in Mexico.”
Like most of these young singers, she’s filled with ambition and expects to find a career with singing.
“That is the career that I want and it’s what I’m aiming for. And hopefully one day I’ll be in the Latin Grammys,” she said with a chuckle.
Posas announced the singer from the furthest distance.
“Our next vocalist comes all the way from the Bronx, New York. Please help me welcome Jazmin Duran!” she said.
“Buenos Noches, San Antonio!” said Duran in response to the applause.
Jazmin Duran Garcia didn’t so much come onto the stage. She strutted.
“Yeah, I really felt just the energy of the room,” Garcia said.
During intermission she described the trajectory of the 24 year-old’s musical interests.