What is Mariachi 101?

Mariachi For Gringos Book, by Gil Sperry

by Gil Sperry on March 28, 2010

in Mariachi, Special Report

I recently met Gil Sperry, the author of Mariachi for Gringos, an introductory book about mariachi music for an american audience who don’t know much or anything at all about mariachi, but that have an interest in this wonderful tradition. We have been lucky to count in Serenata Mariachi with two of his articles about the impact of mariachi in the Hispanic youth.  You can read his articles titled:  “Nati Cano’s Contributions To Education Of Hispanic Youth” and “The Positive Effects Of Mariachi On The Education of Hispanic Youth“.

Gil is  a great promoter of the mariachi and in addition to his book, over the years he has created an interactive workshop where he helps his audience to discover the wonders behind the mariachi music.

I wanted to know where the Mariachi 101 workshop came from, so I asked him that question.

Here is his answer in which he explain to us what Mariachi 101 is:

It all started a little over three years ago at the end of the calendar year 2006. “Mariachi For Gringos” first edition was published and I began to think in earnest about the best way to get the world to listen to what it…and I…had to say.  An interactive, multi-media presentation seemed to make the most sense. After all, in the absence of live mariachi accompanying me on my book tours, the next best thing would be to have the audiences experience the joy, passion, and love that I felt when I listened to all of my favorites. It took me a while to figure out how to do this but I knew instinctively that those who came to the events had to have their attendance validated before they began their collaborative guided tour of the genre. So I asked them some simple focus-group, raise-your-hand-if-you’re-answering-affirmatively, type questions: how many of you love music, how many of you are musicians, how many of you know…or are related to…musicians, how many of you consider yourself mariachi aficionados, how many of you know very little or nothing about mariachi. Their answers determined the direction of where I would be heading and the optimum path that we would use to arrive most effectively at our destination. The people appeared to be interested in why I, not of Hispanic heritage, would be so passionate about the genre so I told them. I then got them further involved by asking if they knew the actual derivation of the word ‘gringo’ and followed up by inquiring if they were aware of the original meaning of ‘mariachi.’ We had become de facto partners in a mutual search for illumination and information. When I introduced music into the equation I had to do it with a purpose. I utilized the best CD performances and DVD archival footage that I could find. Then I buttressed the audio/visual with the truism of how much more meaningful the sounds and sights were when the meaning of the lyrics was crystal-clear to all those in the audience, not only those who were fluent in Spanish. I achieved this breakthrough by handing out copies of the music and lyrics (in Spanish and English) from the book coinciding with what the attendees were hearing and seeing. Anecdotes were liberally sprinkled throughout the evening’s entertainment. My avowed goals were to educate, inform, and entertain. When enthusiastic applause and a spirited Q and A session followed the formal presentation I knew I had achieved what every author wants: an interested and inquisitive audience!

On March 6th, 2010 I had been invited back…for the third time…to present at the Western National Park Association’s flagship store in Oro Valley, Arizona. My wife asked me “what if a lot of the people in attendance have heard your presentations before?” After getting over a short-lived panic attack, I introduced an entirely new section featuring forty-five second snippets of recorded music preceded by the question “Is it mariachi?” followed by what I hoped would be a lively discussion over what actually determined whether or not the songs earned the appellation. The segment worked like a charm. By the way, the WNPA event was the 150th ‘performance’ of “Mariachi 101” and it continues to evolve in all sorts of strange and wondrous ways. If you’d like to book this event for your venue, please contact me via e-mail at:gilsperry@yahoo.com or via phone at (619) 887-9288. You might also enjoy a trip to our website: www.mariachiforgringos.com. I hope to meet you in person somewhere along the way. Viva el Mariachi!!!

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