Texas State University hosts 13th annual competition

When Texas State University hosts the 13th annual Feria del Mariachi on March 2–3, San Marcos will welcome hundreds of musicians practicing the "true Mexican art form," as John Lopez, coordinator of Latin Music Studies, described mariachi.

"Like many people consider jazz the true American art form, mariachi would be that for Mexico," said Lopez, who is also the director of the university's mariachi band, Nueva Generacin.

Lopez has been with Nueva Generacin since its inception in 1997, when it was founded as a student organization.

In his 15 years with the group, Lopez said he has seen it go from a casual gathering of students to a fully credited class housed within the School of Music.

The group has also achieved a level of fame outside the realm of Texas State.

In addition to being described as one of the premier university mariachi bands in Texas, Nueva Generacin won first place in December at the Mariachi Vargas competition in San Antonio, the largest mariachi group contest in the United States.

The win was the group's fifth first-place finish at the festival in six years.

The group also dazzled in the individual competition. Senior Celeste Rios took home first-place honors in the vocal competition, and Karen Zavala, a sophomore, took second place.

Zavala said she delved into the world of mariachi after growing up in a house where someone was always singing a mariachi.

She said that as a middle school student, she was confused by the way her mother and grandmother sang, but that the first time she performed the music, she understood the appeal of the art form.

"Sometimes the lyrics—I haven't been completely heartbroken—but some songs I'll be listening to it and I'll get into it and I get into character, and I feel what that songwriter was feeling when they wrote it," Zavala said.

Lopez credits Nueva Generacin as one of the main reasons Texas State was named a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2011.

"We wanted to be the ones that started it and made it grow so that the Central Texas area had a mariachi that they could really claim as their own," he said.

Feria del Mariachi

The festival takes place March 2–3. Tickets are available at Taqueria El Charro and Victory Cleaners in San Marcos, and online at www.feriadelmariachi.com. Tickets will be available the day of the event at Embassy Suites. Tickets are $5 for students, $15 for general admission, $20 for preferred seating and $50 for the gala on Saturday.

The music begins with high school and middle school mariachi competitions at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the San Marcos High School auditorium.

The event concludes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with an awards gala and performances by Nueva Generacin and featured artist, Mariachi 7 Leguas, named "Best Mariachi in the World" at a recent contest in Mexico.

13th Annual Feria del Mariachi, City of San Marcos Convention Center/Embassy Suites, 1001 E. McCarty Lane, San Marcos, 245-7401 (festival) or 392-6450 (convention center)