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Looking for a Meaningful Christmas Gift? Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando's First CD Is A Treasure to Have PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 05:50

All Money Raised Through CD Sales Goes Back Into The Youth After-School Program


If you are looking for a gift that gives back, the recently released CD with the music from San Fernando's talented young musicians is the way to go. Just in time for Christmas, those that appreciate traditional music can support the next generation of mariachi musicians by purchasing the very first album produced from the nationally acclaimed Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando trained through the Mariachi Master Apprentice Program (MMAP).

The 14 songs in "Cantares de Mi Tierra" (Songs of My Homeland) take you along for a tour of music that reflects a slice of Mexico's diverse culture— sones, rancheras, huapangos – "songs of heartbreak and joy that help you to remember," said instructor Jimmy Cuellar, who recorded the students in his own studio.

"It's a great CD and it's amazing that such young people were able to put such a great album out," Cuellar added. For MMAP Musical Director Jesus "Chuy" Guzman, connecting the name of the group, (italics Mariachi Treasures of San Fernando," the CD brings out all the "treasure that we have in music in Mexico. It's truly a delight to hear."

Described as a labor of love, the effort came together after nearly 500 hours of hard work of singing, tuning and re-tuning instruments that paid of tremendously, said Cuellar. "It was a lot of work but he wanted to be sure that the recording reflected the talent of the group. "It sounds great," he said.

Recording required commitment from the young group. "It was great seeing what the professional musicians get to do in a studio. It's one of the biggest things for any musician [to record] ," said violinist Ernesto Lazaro, 17. Lazaro recounted that it required several weeks of heading straight to the studio from school.


"You learn to have a lot of patience because the CD has to come out perfect. It paid off for all the hard work we did," Lazaro added.

Anthony Fino, 16, who plays the trumpet, said they even took their homework to the studio, sneaking in some time studying while taking turns recording. "It was a lot of late nights but its beautiful music played by young kids and teens," Fino said.

"It was an awesome experience, recording, playing the same songs you love and adore," said Adrian Ascencio, 11, who plays vihuela. "It's the Mexican culture and tradition on a disk." The fact that all the musicians on the CD are not yet old enough to drink is the most refreshing part of the work for MMAP instructor Sergio "Checo" Alonso, who co-produced the CD with Guzman, Cuellar and fellow instructor Juan Jimenez.

"I call it an audio documentation of the program after 11 years, the success that it's had. It showcases the advanced students' work," Alonso said. "You get a high-quality, professionally- produced album done by children, but hearing them you would never guess that [they are kids playing]."

What first began as a concept to pair professional lmariachi musicians as instructors with young students who have a desire to learn the traditional music of their heritage has made dreams that both teacher and students could not have imagined to come true.

It's been a huge year for MMAP and the Mariachi Tesoros de San Fernando. Their success has gone through the roof.

MMAP, first created in 2001 as a collaboration with Nati Cano, founder of the world renowned Mariachi Los Camperos, and the City of San Fernando Recreation and Community Services has recently been recognized as the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. They are considered one of 12 exceptional after school programs in the nation. MMAP traveled to Washington D.C. to receive its award, and not only performed on the prestigious stage of the Kennedy Center, they also performed in the East Wing of the White House, where they they met and played for First Lady Michelle Obama, an experience they said they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

"I couldn't believe it, to see the First Lady in person. I've seen her on TV and in the newspaper and being with her, it was quite a privilege," said Alejandro Ascencio, 15, who plays guitar, trumpet and accordion. "We weren't nervous about performing, but being in the White House," confided Lazaro. The First Lady even announced that the kids had just produced their own CD and told them that she had watched their Kennedy Center performance.

Stefanie Espinoza, 18, a student at UCLA, the experience nearly brought her to tears. She was asked by the first lady what her major was and when she told her that it was the sciences, Mrs.Obama in her later remarks noted that this is what "her husband was talking about, needing more young women in the sciences." "It made me feel like an example to my [younger] peers [in the Mariachi program] because I'm a freshman in college."

Espinoza said that she hopes to return to the White House someday as a surgeon. Espinoza said while her professional plans are in the medical field, she will always be a mariachi and the music won't ever be absent from her life. Recording the CD for her while hard work was worth every moment to produce something so meaningful.

"It shows young people [the beauty of ] preserving their parent's culture. It gets me emotional and happy just to listen to it," she said.

Best of all, the money raised with the sale of the CD will go toward buying instruments, mariachi attire and funding trips for the members of the MMAP, according to Guzman. "Here, everything will go back to the kids," he noted. That's the best selling point for Ascencio.

"You're not only buying a CD, you're contributing to a program that helps keep the Mexican culture alive," he said.

The CD is available in Amazon, iTunes, and at San Fernando Recreation and Community Services at (818) 898-1290.

Editor Diana Martinez contributed to this article

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:02