Las Cruces Mariachi Conference returns in November
At Las Cruces High School, more than a dozen musicians gather in a semi-circle for the start of rehearsals.
The mariachi program at Las Cruces High got its start more than a decade ago thanks largely to a mariachi conference at NMSU.
"Ever since the conference has been happening, this group has always attended in some capacity," said Jennifer Rogers, the orchestra and mariachi director at Las Cruces High. "It's really important for us to be a part of it because not only is it an educational opportunity, it's a chance for these kids to meet other students who have the same passions and to learn about the history and culture that is a part of who they are personally in a lot of cases."
After a three-year hiatus, the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference returns next month.
"I was raised through the mariachi programs and the mariachi conference," said Robert Palacios, the conference director. "I started as a student and now I'm helping run this conference with such a great team and many of these volunteers and people on the committees went through the conference as well so we have a passion for it that's indescribable."
Palacios is also the executive director of the Las Cruces Mariachi Conservatory, where students learn technique and theory. They also learn about the history of the art form.
"I wanted to bring that back and to offer it to our community so that these young kids could be brought up through mariachi and music," said Palacios.
Orlando Jimenez is a conference organizer and also an instructor at the conservatory.
"What a privilege to be Mexican American and to be able to represent my roots through music," said Jimenez, who is an accomplished mariachi performer.
Jimenez said the mariachi conference plays an important role in preserving the tradition of mariachi music.
"The classes don't just teach you how to sing," Jimenez said. "They go into the history of the instrument."
Jimenez and Palacios say they are excited to welcome back headliners like Mariachi Cobre, who perform at Disneyworld in Orlando.
"We're very excited to have everybody back. It's going to be a great show," said Jimenez. "There's going to be tributes during the show. We have a local icon who we're going to feature."
But they are equally as excited to revive the conference tradition, of teaching the ins and outs of mariachi to students from all over the Borderland.
"Take a peek into the classes and see what these kids are learning and you'll see that the 100 dollars they spend are very well spent," said Jimenez.