It’s a pretty big deal when students get to perform at Carnegie Hall. How do you make that an even bigger deal? When a last-minute cancellation means the students get to perform in the main event.
Mariachi Mestizo, the premier mariachi ensemble of Delano’s the Mariachi Studio, will be performing at Carnegie Hall on Monday as part of a program organized by Manhattan Concert Productions, a company that specializes in booking student groups, especially high school and college choirs — in prestigious venues.
Director Juan Morales said the student ensemble auditioned to perform in MCP’s Student Series concerts, which feature developing groups in a morning concert program. However a group in the more prestigious Debut Series "pulled out, and Carnegie screened all the student ensembles and chose Mariachi Mestizo,” Morales wrote in an email.
Morales explained the Debut Series is an evening concert program and a ticketed event, just the kind of high-profile event the ensemble has grown accustomed to in the last few years. Mariachi Mestizo has played at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Hollywood Bowl.
“The Hollywood Bowl happened after our ensemble won first place in the Battle of the Mariachis (at San Juan Capistrano Mission),” Morales explained. “Producer and director Anthony Medrano, from San Antonio, Texas, saw our video and invited us to be the opening act for the Mariachi USA Festival at the iconic venue.”
Mariachi Mestizo is the final stage of development for the students at the Mariachi Studio. Students in this group are preparing — and expected — to further their education at the college level and to continue performing their musical heritage while in college, even if they don’t pursue music as a career. Morales said mariachi ensembles are becoming part of the curriculum at universities like UCLA, Stanford and Harvard.
Morales said the school accepts children as young as 3 to 4 years old up to high school age, and the students progress through different ensembles as their skills mature.
“Yes, we do have beginner (elementary) and intermediate (middle school) ensembles and some of the young ones already rehearse with Mestizo in anticipation of their elders' impending graduation and departure,” Morales said.
The school encourages students to leave for college when they turn 18. And the encouragement seems to be working: Morales points to students who have already graduated from UC Santa Barbara, CSUB and, in the case of his own daughter, from UCLA with a degree in ethnomusicology.
Morales noted that such trips are expensive, and in addition to practicing and performing, the students are raising money to pay for the trip. That effort includes a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo at https://igg.me/at/mestizoatcarnegie.