Young mariachis face off at fair
More than 200 musicians play at nationals competition for money and fame.
The Plaza Arts Stage at the OC Fair was packed last weekend as more than 200 young mariachis sang in hopes of winning stardom and a big check.
The Mariachi Heritage Society held their second annual Jose Hernandez’ Mariachi Nationals and Summer Institute, which started with music classes at Orange Coast College and culminated in a competition at the OC Fair for the students from California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico.
What will you do with the prize money?
High School Ensemble Winner: Mariachi Azteca ($2,000)
Montgomery High School, San Diego
“We’ll probably use it to maintain the group, to repair instruments and uniforms, to go to other conferences.” — Jacob Lizarrago
Vocal Winner ($1,000)
“I can use that to pay for my lessons and anything that will help me advance my musical career.”
Community Ensemble Winner: Mariachi Acero ($2,000)
“We’re going to Chicago in August to perform so the prize money will help with that.” — Benito Pineda
“The ultimate goal is to build up to more students so we can make a profit and open up a permanent after-school mariachi program and pay a teacher,” Teresa Hernandez said.
Jose Hernandez has been singing mariachi professionally for 32 years.
“Mariachi is my whole life,” Jose Hernandez said. “It’s totally a part of me. It’s been in my family for six generations.”
He said the summer institute, which helps young musicians improve, is important “because they get to learn mariachi at a higher level,” Jose Hernandez said. “It makes them grow as musicians.”
The summer institute costs each student $130, which includes food, instruction and tickets to the fair.
Participants in the competition were given 15 minutes to perform and were judged on tone, technique, interpretation of style, vocals and balance, among other things. Traditional mariachi songs, as well as contemporary songs performed in a mariachi style, are allowed.
Prizes up to $2,000 were awarded for best mariachi high school ensemble, best mariachi community ensemble and best mariachi vocalist. Other winners included Mariachi Azteca.
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