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Arizona Sonoran News

Arizona Sonoran News

Student Newswire of The University of Arizona School of Journalism

Arizona Sonoran News

The Tucson International Mariachi Conference returns in May

The 42nd International Mariachi Conference returns to Tucson May 1-5 with an all-day mariachi meetup at Jacomé Plaza and music from supergroup Mariachi Sol de Mexico.

The 42nd International Mariachi Conference returns to Tucson May 1-5 with an all day mariachi meetup at Jacomé Plaza and music from supergroup Mariachi Sol de Mexico.

The conference, running Wednesday through Sunday, opens with an assortment of mariachi/folklórico workshops at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave, along with nightly musical competitions at the MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento, in the Mercado District.

Friday night’s concert will feature music from the internationally acclaimed band leader Jóse Hernández and Mariachi Sol de Mexico, the ensemble he founded that has received four Grammy nominations and performed with artists including Selena, the Beach Boys and Luis Miguel.  

On Saturday, there will be an all-day Fiesta de Garibaldi at Jacomé Plaza, 101 N. Stone Ave., featuring more live mariachi music, food and other festivities. 

The conference concludes on Sunday with a mariachi Mass at noon at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave.       

“I think a lot of people look at Tucson as the mecca of mariachi in the States and I think it has a lot to do with the Tucson International Mariachi Conference,” said John Contreras, music director of the award-winning Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School.

Contreras, who is also an International Mariachi Conference board member, has been preparing his students for their mariachi workshops all year.

The annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference has a number of workshops for children. Courtesy Adrian Perez.

Although the conference is typically well known for its visiting Mariachi virtuosos, Contreras said that for his students, the conference is all about the workshops. The students participating in the mariachi and folklórico workshops will vary in skill level, ranging from beginning players and dancers to the most advanced students in the city.   

“The master level students are students that are really, really ready to tackle hard music and hard dance,” Contreras said. “So usually the master levels are taught by some of the greatest professional groups nationally and internationally.” 

At this year’s conference, members of the Los Angeles-based Mariachi Sol de Mexico are teaching the highest level workshops as well as performing at the conference.

“It will be like if you had a high school baseball team and then all of a sudden you have the Yankees or the Red Socks come in and give a three-day clinic to your team, you know?” said Contreras. 

Pueblo High School’s Mariachi Aztlán will be learning from Sol de Mexico during the week. Group co-leader and Pueblo High senior Jazlynne Fernandez, 17, will perform for her final time before graduating in May. 

“Every year we do the conference and we’re ninth-time winners,” she said.

Aztlán de Pueblo has won first place in the conference nine consecutive years, and was also named Tucson’s best mariachi band by Tucson Weekly in 2021.

“I’m just excited to be on the stage again. This is my last year obviously and it’s just something that I’m looking forward to,” Fernandez said. “Performing with everyone one last time.”

Jazlynne Fernandez, center, is returning to the International Mariachi Conference after last year’s performance. Courtesy Kevin Van Rensselaer

Fernandez will play violin and sing at the event at 7 p.m. Thursday and if the Aztlán walks away with the top prize, they will join Mariachi Sol de Mexico Friday night in the Espactacular Concert at the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and tickets start at $40 here

At 10 a.m. Saturday, there’s the 12-hour long Fiesta de Garibaldi at the Jacomé Plaza, 101 N. Stone Ave. International Mariachi Conference board member, Adrian Perez said that the last “full on” Garibaldi event featured at the conference was pre-covid, in 2018.       

“It’s gonna be a day-long event filled with music and dance and food,” said Perez. “We’re all excited about that. It’ll be a bigger footprint than what we’ve typically had.”

As well as mariachi, there are also a number of folklòrico workshops at the conference. Courtesy Adrian Perez

Perez said that the International Mariachi Conference board is currently kicking around the idea of shifting back to more community accessible events like this one.

“One of our goals up front and in general is to make our particular festival and this event one of the most accessible events to anybody in the community. You don’t have to be a part of the workshops or any of the concerts to go take part in it,” he said. 

Perez said the Garibaldi, with tickets for $25, will function as an all encompassing episode of the event, featuring some student workshops, a night time concert and loads of additional activities throughout the day.   

“It’s about catering to the community’s desire to be out there and supporting the students and just having a good time,” said Perez. 

Perez said that the conference is reaching out to other local event organizers including the Dusk Festival and the Tucson Folk Festival for ideas on how to map out more community inclusive Mariachi events for future conferences. 

“We’ve been trying to make relationships with other successful organizations that have done great jobs with their festivals and their community events and the key is like, ‘Why reinvent the wheel if you already have people in the community doing a great job?’” said Perez. 

Perez emphasized that one of the benefits of the Garibaldi is its high level of inclusivity and the fact that people from Tucson without any additional knowledge of the conference could participate and enjoy the festivities. 

For the complete schedule and more information, visit here


Pueblo Highschool mariachi students are yearly participants and nine time winners of the conference. Courtesy Adrian Perez.


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