It Takes A Village, Estilo de Mariachi

San Juan Capistrano Community Mariachi

by Maestro on May 23, 2010

in Mariachi

By Gil Sperry

For many years prior to 2008, David and Rosa Ceja had directed a mariachi choir and a children’s music group within their San Felipe de Jesus Church located in Capistrano Beach, CA.  In September of that fateful year, the Ceja family had an epiphany of sorts as they decided to act upon their fervent belief that at least several of the Mexican-American children of their bucolic Southern California village who were not members of their church would also benefit from being taught the basics of the music of their native country. They put out the word that they were looking for volunteer students, expecting that the first net that they cast would bring in less than a dozen interested youngsters. Imagine their pleasant surprise when nearly ninety kids from the San Juan Capistrano environs positively responded to their initial clarion call. Today, less than a year-and-a half later, their privately funded program has more than 100 students enrolled in age/experience-appropriate lessons that are held weekly at  Orange County’s Junipero Serra High School. Instruction is offered in all of the traditional mariachi instruments (violin, trumpet, guitar, guitarron,) as well as in voice.

I first became aware of The Capistrano Community Mariachi Program when I met David Ceja and his brother Alex at the 28th Annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference  in April of this year. They shared their story of the founding/growth of the group and of how major benefactors had helped them raise the funds to rent a van & cover the expenses for their odyssey to the Arizona mecca of the music they love so much. Rosa and Ricardo Baes, the founders/owners of Ricardo’s Place in San Juan Capistrano, had heard of their struggles to keep their meaningful project financially afloat. They offered to allow the young mariachi to play on weekends at their restaurant and worked out a formula whereby the C.C.M.P. could earn as much as 25% of the plus business they attracted to the restaurant through their appearances.  The targeted amount needed to make the trip to Tucson was $15,000 and the group’s efforts were successful in raising this considerable sum. David, as musical director, felt very strongly that the experience and exposure that his students would get from being trained at the Conference’s workshops by the mariachi genre’s very best would be vital to the youngsters’ musical growth. In addition, they would have the added thrill of being part of the attempt to break the Guinness Book’s  world record for most mariachi performing together simultaneously in one venue. The tricky part was that all of the participants had to wear full trajes (including sombreros) and play for more than 10 minutes. For your information, the popurri chosen included La Negra, El Triste, El Perico Loco and Carretero. The attempt proved to be successful, as 555 mariachi broke the previous record of 549 set at the 16th Annual Guadalajara (MX) Mariachi Festival , which was held on August 29th, 2009.

Now the most experienced musicians in the program, performing as Mariachi Capistrano, are facing their biggest challenge as they prepare to compete in the prestigious Sixth Annual Battle of The Mariachi scheduled  at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the crown jewel of Fr. Serra’s twenty-one original  Franciscan outposts in the new world,  on Saturday, May 22nd. World-class judges will decide which of the twelve entrants from all over the state will be crowned as champions of their respective age/experience related categories. We do know that every musician competing in this event is already a winner as the positive effects of mariachi on the education of Hispanic youth have been clearly proven. Long after the day’s melodies have faded into the Southern California sunset, the combined efforts of the C.C.M.P’s founders, its current cadre of ten instructors, their young charges, their families and their fans, will have conclusively proven that it truly does take everyone, the entire village if you will, to raise our children to the highest level of achievement.  Viva el Mariachi!!!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

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