The nationally recognized Mariachi Aztlan from The University of Texas-Pan American rocked the Hollywood Bowl stage in Los Angeles, Calif. June 18 at the 22nd annual Mariachi USA Festival, an elite honor to include with their numerous first place awards and grand championships.
"My goal as a mariachi director for the past 20 years has been to perform at Hollywood Bowl," said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean for the College of Arts and Humanities. "I saw a performance there and since then have been dreaming of seeing our students perform on that stage. It's a dream come true and a culmination of an incredible year."
A talent scout from Mariachi USA first heard the award-winning group at the Houston Rodeo Mariachi Invitational Competition - where they won first place. The Mariachi USA representative invited Guerra to submit a biography of the group, pictures and music samples for consideration by a festival selection committee.
"We really have put our University on the map and in the mariachi world this group is very well known," said Guerra. "These types of opportunities are incredible eye openers for our students. They're often life changing and being invited at this level is a great honor and a milestone because it shows how far our mariachi has come in almost 23 years."
The experience of playing at the prestigious venue, which was built in 1929, and where well-known musicians and dancers such as Fred Astaire, The Beatles and Elton John have performed, was an honor for Guerra and her students. UTPA junior James Escobedo, music education major and Mariachi Aztlan violinist, said he was speechless when he was told the group had been selected to perform at the Hollywood Bowl.
"The experience was like, Wow," said Escobedo. "Every mariachi wants to perform on this stage, it's a dream. And just being able to play alongside other great mariachi groups was an experience in itself."
Escobedo said hearing cheers roar from the audience of nearly 18,000 people was calming. He said they could feel the crowd's excitement, spirit and energy; a feeling he said they never lose no matter how many times they perform.
"To hear we weren't only selected, but invited, takes us to a whole other level of talent and achievement," said Escobedo. "It's makes me proud, makes our parents proud and makes UTPA and the community proud. I can't wait to see what's next for us."
Francisco Loera, UTPA Mariachi director, said he sees no limits to things the group can do. They are going to continue to aim high for new learning experiences that will help them become better musicians.
"Performing at Hollywood Bowl was one of the greatest feelings. We've been persistent in doing things like this and we want to continue doing more and more," said Loera. "I'm so happy that our students get to experience this. They work so hard all year and they have so much talent...it's very rewarding."
Mariachi Aztlan has already been invited to perform at the San Jose Festival in California in September, and with a Christmas Tour in Albuquerque, N.M. and surrounding areas in December. Guerra and Loera also plan on working on a new CD, and trying to get their mariachi group to Spain next school year to perform at different venues while completing a study abroad course.
"We dream big and set our sights at the top," said Guerra. "I appreciate the hard work from our students and directors and I congratulate them. We're a team and a family and I'm just proud that we've been able to bring this type of recognition to our campus as musical ambassadors."
For more information on the festival, go to the Mariachi USA website.