On Sunday, April 7, 120 young mariachi musicians returned to the stage following a long hiatus to perform in the much-loved concert La Voz del Mariachi, at San Fernando High School’s Cesar Chavez Auditorium.
The concert which, for years, was a community favorite, had been on hiatus since 2006, but last weekend the large crowd cheered as if no time had passed. One group after another of talented young musicians graced the stage, bringing back the concert which had years earlier showcased the many local groups that came before them.
The concert this year was aptly titled “La Voz del Mariachi Vuelve” (Returns).
The Northeast San Fernando Valley grows Mariachi musicians like no other community, thanks in large part to the support at local schools, including those connected to the nationally recognized Mariachi Master Apprentice Program that is based in the City of San Fernando.
Through this program, uniquely, students are taught by master mariachi musicians at San Fernando Middle School and San Fernando High School.
Over the years tremendous talent has grown from the Northeast San Fernando Valley, with young female mariachis as well as young male mariachis making their mark on the musical tradition and changing the face of the art form, so much so that it’s no longer considered unusual to see female mariachis. And all-female mariachi groups are now in demand professionally.
The concert showcased mariachi groups from Telfair Elementary, Haddon Elementary, San Fernando Middle School , San Fernando High School, Fulton College Preparatory Academy and the Mariachi Masters Apprentice Program sponsored by the City of San Fernando. Also performing were community-based groups from the San Fernando Valley — Mariachi Alma de Mexico, Mariachi Sin Fronteras and Mariachi Sol Azteca.
For Mariachi Sin Fronteras (without borders), it was their first official performance playing together as a group. The name of the group conveyed their diversity. One of their musicians is of Lebanese ancestry and another is of Russian ancestry.
Juan Romero, currently a Mariachi instructor at Haddon Elementary School, reflected on his own experience performing in Voz del Mariachi concerts when he a boy in middle school.
“I’ve come full circle,” said Romero, prior to their performance. “I remember how nervous I was when we went onstage years ago, and today I’m even more nervous because now, these are my students who will perform.”
Recently retired teacher, Rudy Vasquez who taught music at San Fernando Middle School for more than 25 years, was also honored at the concert.
— Diana Martinez