Mariachi Conference reflections Part 2 – the participant showcase

Participant showcase schedule

Participant showcase schedule

In my thirty plus years of covering mariachis, the event at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference that I most look forward to is the participant showcase.

This is where the students who have gone to the workshops all week get to show off their stuff and get some perspective of where they stand next to other groups.

It’s not a competition by any means, but in watching the other students perform the different groups get a sense of where their strengths and weaknesses express themselves, and what they need to work on. At the same time, they get to show their fans and families what they can do.

The reason it’s always been of such great interest to me over the long haul is that this single event, more than any other, is testament to how the mariachi world is progressing. Year after year I have found myself thinking things couldn’t go much further at these ages, only to be proven wrong the following year.

Las Vegas' Mariachi Mexico Antiguo gathers to perform.

Las Vegas’ Mariachi Mexico Antiguo gathers to perform.

The technical level of achievement rises, as does the breadth of repertoire, the assimilation of style and the level of innovation that these young performers are now bringing to the table. It’s a remarkable thing to watch evolve over time.

This year’s showcase boasted some incredible talent from unexpected places, and some groups that are in a building phase. Like student athletes, some years you have a winning team, others you build. But the potential among those building their mariachi programs is very high, and the level they’re currently performing at now exceeds what could have been done even five years ago at the same level.

There were three particularly innovative additions to this year’s participant showcase.  One was having the members of Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez judge each group and choose one excellent bunch of performers to appear at the Mariachi Espectacular concert the following night. Another was webcasting the student showcase and allowing fans around the world to vote for their favorite performers. The third was a cash award from the Elisa Gastellum Foundation for the best high school groups. It included money for program development for the top group.

Later tonight I will add my own thoughts about this year’s young performers, and show some video highlights of the showcase.



~ by Daniel Buckley on May 3, 2013.

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