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Mariachi Master Apprentice Program To Record First CD PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia, Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 19 April 2012 03:14

Local Musicians Get Dollar Bills Signed By U.S. Treasurer Following A Performance in Washington, D.C.


The young musicians in the MMAP is recording its first CD as a fundraiser. The proceeds will be used to help pay for costumes and transportation.

Mariachi Tesoro, the performing group from the Mariachi Master-Apprentice Program (MMAP), is celebrating a decade of musical excellence in the City of San Fernando by releasing its debut album.

Whenever these young musicians play, people often ask if there is a CD that they can buy and now they will have one. Proceeds from sales of the CD, which is expected to be released this summer, will go back into the program to help offset costs that include costumes, instruments and transportation to music festivals and performances.

Formed in 2001, MMAP has become a world-renowned, award-winning youth arts-ineducation program, one of the most successful mariachi education institutions in the country, and an important part of the cultural arts life in the City of San Fernando.

It's also a program that encourages the students to continue their musicianship after they graduate from high school, and many MMAP grads have gone on to college.

"We create an atmosphere conducive for them (students) to learn," said Sergio "Checo" Alonso, one of the MMAP directors. "Here, they are challenged to excel in their instruments."

Alonso said that they often play mariachi music at colleges that also have groups. UCLA was one of the first universities to form mariachi band, and now there are others at various university campuses.

Alonso attributes MMAP's "healthy competition," which makes each member "accountable" for learning.

"I believe that kids, when they are challenged, they step up," he said.

Washington Trip

That's what happened recently, when three MMAP members and a former member joined a renowned Mariachi group in Washington, D.C.

Last month, local realtor Gerardo "Jerry" Ascencio traveled to Washington, D.C. to be installed as president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the first Southern California-based real estate broker to head the organization.

Ascencio took his family along for the important occasion, including his three sons, Gerardo Jr., 18, Alejandro, 14 and Adrian, 10 – all of them MMAP members.

A gala was held the last day on the trip and NAHREP hired Mariachi Los Amigos, Washington, D.C.'s longestexisting mariachi ensemble. The group is lead by famous musicians, including Daniel Sheehy, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and trumpeter Terry Lui.

During the gala, all three Ascencio brothers joined in with Mariachi Los Amigos. So did their uncle and former MMAP member Daniel Herrera, a Stanford graduate who currently works and resides in the nation's capital.

U.S. Treasurer Rosy Rios (seated, middle) was among the guests who enjoyed a mariachi performance during a gala in Washington, D.C.

And the young Ascencios and their uncle held their own.

"It was amazing. I felt amazed to be playing with them," said Alejandro, who's been with MMAP for 2 ½ years and plays the trumpet, the piano, the "guitarron" and accordion.

"They (MMAP) have the best teaching tools to put us on stage. It's a privilege to be part of the program. We have teachers who are some of the best mariachis in the world."

The group played for 45 minutes before the beginning of the event and another 15 minutes once the gala began.

But the climax of the entire presentation was when the three young Ascencios performed solos, and their father joined his oldest son for a duet of "Perdón."

"It was something spectacular," said Ascencio, of being onstage with his sons and singing along with one of them.

He said he was proud of seeing his sons perform at such a high level, and to see and hear three generations of musicians. "I felt great pride," Ascencio said. "I saw myself in them. In the third generation, we got it right this time."

The crowd loved it as well, as the group received a standing ovation. "The crowd went wild," Alejandro said.

Ascencio credited MMAP for preparing his sons for such performances.

"They plant the right seed so that they can harvest beautifully in the future," he noted. "It's a combination of life skills, set discipline, goal setting and achievement they encourage that allows for kids of that age to execute at their highest accuracy."

Signed Dollar Bills

The standing ovation and the great applause were only part of the "thanks" expressed by the 450 people gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel.

In attendance that night was U.S. Treasurer Rosy Rios, the event's keynote speaker, who sat at the Ascencios' table.

After her speech, Rios took time to autograph dollar bills already signed by her (by way of the U.S. Mint). All three young Ascencios didn't miss the chance to get one of these mementos.

"I have it in a safe as a treasure," Alejandro said. "It's quite a privilege for me to have it from the Treasurer, and her being Hispanic."

Alonso was not surprised his students received such a great response for their performance.

"Jerry is a solid guitarist, and Adrian is a great little singer. But the one that has the gift is Alejandro. He's a musical monster," Alonso said.

"They're just examples of many kids in our program who are excelling in their own way."

Grammy Award-winning producer and arranger Jesus "Chuy" Guzman, musical director of Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano will produce the CD project, currently untitled. Interested persons can purchase the CD for $20; proceeds from the purchase of the CD go back into the program to help offset costs that include costumes, instruments and transportation to music festivals and performances. To order the CD, contact Sergio Alonso at (818) 606- 6277.