Mariachi Aztlan tops all groups as Grand Champion of national mariachi competition
Posted: 07/14/2010
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The tradition of award-winning performances of an important folk music genre - mariachi - continues at The University of Texas-Pan American.

UTPA's Mariachi Aztlan placed first in the University level and was also named Grand Champion, beating out professional groups, at the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque competition July 10.

Pictured with musical director Francisco Loera (far right) are the members of UTPA's Mariachi Aztlan which won first place University Level and Grand Champion prizes at the prestigious Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque competition July 10.
"This is the most exciting and difficult competition that our mariachi has ever won in its 20 years of existence. It is significant because they won both at the university level and were selected as Grand Champion of the entire competition. I am very proud of our students," said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and founder of the University's mariachi group.

The Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque, held in Albuquerque, N.M. since 1991, is one of the highest-rated mariachi conferences in the western hemisphere. It offers workshops led by master instructors and a competition that draws top mariachi groups from across the nation.

The 16-member Mariachi Aztlan competed against 25 other university-level mariachi ensembles from New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Washington, Nevada and Texas. Another group from South Texas, Mariachi Nueva Era from Valley View High School won first place in the High School level competition.

Guerra said all groups in the competition were given seven minutes in which to showcase their talent and ability to the audience and a panel of five judges, who then rated each group based on selected criteria on a scale from 1 to 10. The group with the overall highest score at the end of the competition was the overall winner named Grand Champion.

"The UTPA Mariachi Aztlan received a beautiful trophy and the opportunity to open Saturday night's Spectacular Concert at Sandia Resort & Casino's Amphitheater, where they shared the stage with some of mariachi's greatest performers including the Mariachi Sol de Mexico," Guerra said.

The Mariachi Aztlan is led by musical director Francisco Loera and student assistant Fernando Mendoza, both well-versed in mariachi tradition, Guerra said. She said the musicians dedicated many hours to practice before a competition and praised the group's quest for musical accuracy and excellence as well as its stylistic authenticity representing music from the different regions of Mexico.

Rogelio Escobedo, who teaches music at the Pharr Oratory of Saint Philip Neri School System and is a graduate student in music at UTPA, plays trumpet in Mariachi Aztlan. The Alamo, Texas native described the win as amazing and an incredible experience.

"When I heard them announce our name, I guess I felt then that we had done our job," he said.

Escobedo said it was exciting to be selected as top group by the clinicians and judges, whom he described among the pillars or "founding fathers" of Mexican folk music who have recorded it and brought exposure to it to the rest of the world.

"These guys were talking about how Texas had really set an example to the whole nation. It used to be that California was where the main groups were coming out of. Now they are saying that Texas is the hotbed of mariachi musicians," Escobedo said.

Guerra credited the win to the group's willingness to go the extra mile and their confidence on stage.

"They love the music, they love to perform, and they are proud to represent UTPA as student ambassadors. They also love to win," Guerra said.

View a video regarding Mariachi Aztlan's most recent competition win at Read more about all three of UTPA's mariachi groups at