The University of Texas-Pan American Mariachi successfully defended its title as the nation's top university group at the prestigious Ford-Mariachi Vargas Mariachi Conference and Competition in San Antonio Nov. 21 and 22
Named the number one mariachi group for the fourth straight year - and the fourth year of the competition - the UTPA performers were rewarded with an opportunity to perform with the world-renowned Mariachi Vargas of Mexico City on the last day of the conference and competition.
Once again, the UTPA group was the only contestant to receive a standing ovation after their competition performance.
"The audience just rose the minute they finished playing," said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, associate professor of music and director of the UTPA Mariachi. "It was so thrilling. It was really, really exciting.
"The students just played so well, better than I have ever heard them play. They're getting better and better each year.
"The level of musicianship at the whole competition was higher this year," she said, adding with a laugh, "They're trying to catch up to us, but we're getting better, too."
She said that the atmosphere at the annual competition is one of friendly competition.
"There's a spirit of enjoying the music - we all feel the same love for the music," she said.
The UTPA Mariachi captured the first place award in the college and university division. Second place honors went to the Mariachi Femenil Las Erendiras of San Antonio and the San Antonio ISD All-District Mariachi, a group composed of both high school and college performers, received the third place award. Also competing were groups from The University of Texas at Austin, Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Victoria Community College and Laredo Community College.
In previous years, competitors have included groups from the University of Arizona, New Mexico Highlands University and Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio.
More than 1,500 students in elementary/middle school, high school and college/university categories competed this year, Dr. Guerra said.
In addition to their performance responsibilities, the UTPA students also were asked to teach workshops at the conference, and Dr. Guerra gave a lecture, "What is Mariachi Music Today?," to the all of the students attending the conference.