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Texas State Mariachi Festival Celebrates 5th Year

By Kyle Mills on February 21, 2020 music directors & adjudicators article Print

Photo Courtesy of Jolesch Enterprises

This weekend, the Texas UIL will host their 5th state Mariachi Festival at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Over 80 schools will participate over the course of four sessions on February 21st and 22nd when the bright lights come on at the Performing Arts Complex.

Mariachi is a genre of music that dates back to the 18th century but just recently was adopted by the Texas UIL 10 years ago. The state then had mariachi events in the UIL system but did not have a state festival until 5 years ago.

When it started in 2016, there were 55 high schools that participated. Now the event is at over 80 high schools and around 100 schools in Texas offer mariachi. This number is only expected to grow as more and more students push to participate. 

"We knew the activity was growing and we started to get requests from schools to have a state event," said Texas UIL State Director of Music, Dr. Brad Kent. "It was important for us to stay out in front of the trends in our state."

"Texas is a very diverse state. The music from the mariachi genre is unique in that it all comes from one culture. Many of the kids in our school systems in Texas grew up with this music," said Dr. Kent of Texas, which has 11.4 million Hispanic residents. "It's a very important part of their heritage, their family history, there's a strong connection there."

Since this is a festival format, the groups participating are not ranked, but instead each given the opportunity to earn a high score. The groups receive feedback from a judge and high ability individuals are able to be recognized for outstanding performance. This non-threatening style helps to encourage more participation.

The Mexican ensemble style of music, which typically has about 10 to 20 students per group, continues to get very positive feedback as the Texas UIL mariachi festival grows in popularity. "One of the neat things about mariachi is that it's the one music genre that combines band, choir and orchestra students together," said Dr. Kent. "You have string players, you have singers and you have brass players. It really is the only music genre that allows all 3 of those programs to collaborate, per se, on a specific genre of music."

Dr. Kent urged other school districts to have an open mind when it comes to emerging events in their state. "If a school district can find a way to allow kids to express themselves with a type of music that they feel strongly about and passionately about, I think that's a win for everyone," he added.

Check out all of the Texas UIL Mariachi Festival information here (schedule, photos, live stream): https://www.uiltexas.org/music/state-mariachi-festival

Listen to Dr. Brad Kent's podcast interview here: Google Podcasts / Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Buzzsprout