Las Cruces' Mariachi Spectacular is a lively learning experience - Albuquerque Journal

Las Cruces’ Mariachi Spectacular is a lively learning experience

The Spectacular is the culmination of the four-day Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference in which budding musicians of all ages are exposed to the particular genre of music, learning it from the ground up. (Courtesy Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference)

A high-powered collection of mariachi maestros will headline the upcoming Las Cruces International Mariachi Spectacular Concert on Friday, Nov. 12.

The Spectacular is the culmination of the four-day Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference in which budding musicians of all ages are exposed to the particular genre of music, learning it from the ground up.

“It’s a workshop for students,” said Robert Palacios, conference director. “We teach all of the main instruments of the mariachi orchestra; violin, trumpet, guitar and guitarrón, vihuela and voice. The awesome part is this year our teachers for the workshops are Mariachi Cobre, celebrating its 50th anniversary.”

In the workshops, students learn traditional dance and music.(Courtesy Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference)

Like most other events in the state, the conference and concert were shut down last year by virus-related health mandates, so this year organizers wanted something special.

“This year we’re celebrating 28 years,” Palacios said. “It’s going to be a nice celebration because last year we were unable to because of COVID. It’s the first time we’ve had an in-person event since 2019. It’s been greatly missed.”

The students learn traditional dance and music, with dancers drilled in the ballet folklórico moves.

“It’s very intensive,” he said. “We have a repertoire and choreograph for the dancers.”

Marachi Cobre has played across the world and has been the conferences primary instructors for more than two decades.(Courtesy Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference)

A majority of the students are school-age drawn from community programs or schools.

“But we accept all ages,” Palacios said. “We do have older students that come to the workshops and we take all levels from beginner to advanced. It’s good to have some experience but we take all levels.”

The students then kick off the Spectacular at the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University, he said.

“At the beginning of the Spectacular, the student opening numbers, alongside their instructors,” Palacios said, as a payoff for the hard work they put in.

Then the professionals take the stage.

Steeven Sandoval, a violinist and vocalist, will play alongside Mariachi Cobre. (Courtesy Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference)

The headliner, Steeven Sandoval, La Voz del Mariachi, a violinist and vocalist, will play alongside Mariachi Cobre.

“Steeven Sandoval was part of the two best mariachis in the world, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán for 14 years and Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán for five years, both as a violinist and vocalist,” Palacios said.

Sandoval is considered one of the best proponents of the Ranchero Genre behind such songs as, “Por Amor,” “A los Cuatro Vientos,” “Te Hubieras Ido Antes,” “Si La Ven” and “100 Litros de Tequila.”

Shortly before the pandemic, Sandoval sold out one of the most emblematic theaters in Mexico, El Teatro Degollado, in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Joining Sandoval from Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Mariachi Cobre has played across the world, accompanying such notables as Lola Beltrán, Linda Ronstadt, Pepe Aguilar, Pedro Fernández, Ana Bárbara and Graciela Beltrán.

The group has been the conference’s primary instructors for more than two decades.

Adding to the star-power of the evening, Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas, celebrating its 20th anniversary, will perform in the Spectacular for the first time. The band is notable as an all-female group that has accompanied Grammy-winning and international vocalist and performer, Lila Downs. The group also accompanied Juan Gabriel in concert in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The group was featured in the November 2019 issue of Vogue Mexico magazine and participated in the filming of the PBS’s “La Frontera” with Pati Jinich, which aired this past October.

“We’re doing a big push and grassroots effort to get people to attend,” Palacios said. “The conference has had a number of very good years, but it’s hard. For me, the most important thing are the workshops and passing on the traditions. The Spectacular, that’s the part they get to get see their hard work. We’re trying to find a happy place between bringing in well-known mariachis and also highlighting the educational opportunities for the students.”


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