Lake View High School Mariachi Tunes Up for State UIL Competition
SAN ANGELO, TX – Last Saturday, Feb. 4, Lake View High School’s Mariachi student group participated in a UIL competition for the first time ever in Monahans. As first time contenders, the group not only came back to San Angelo as Superior stars, but they will also be heading to the state competition in San Antonio next month (March 10 and 11) where approximately 56 high school Mariachi bands will compete.
Rosendo Ramos, band director of the Mariachi Group, spoke with pride about the students’ win. He said the Mariachi group competed in a UIL Solo and Ensemble. They weren’t rated against the two other Mariachi groups in attendance, but rather against the UIL standard.
“The highest standard is a Superior rating, which is a 1, and there is a 2, , 4 and a 5,” said Ramos. “They all depend on how well you do, and every standard has a criteria you have to meet to get that rating.”
The other two Mariachi groups to perform were from Odessa High School and a high school from Presidio, Texas.
“We all performed against the standard,” Ramos reiterated. “We were able to get the 1 rating, which means we met all the criteria of a Superior rating. It was really exciting for the students.”
Thanks to this Superior rating, the Mariachi group will be heading to San Antonio for the UIL State Mariachi Festival Competition in March. The group will compete against the standard once more, but this time, as stated, about 56 schools will be in attendance.
“There are only four or five high schools out of the entire competition that get a 1 because it’s so hard to achieve at the state level,” Ramos explained.
Ramos noted that, as a starter group, it’s not easy competing against other high schools that have been around for a long time.
“Some of them have been around for 25 years,” he said. “They started in the early 90s whenever the Mariachis started to be implemented in south Texas.”
Ramos added that this equals more experience and program improvements.
Previously, the Mariachi program started at Edison Junior High, which is now Central Freshman Campus, and moved to Central High School where it eventually dissolved. The program also recently transferred from Lincoln Middle School to Lake View High School. It has only been in existence for three years. Therefore, Ramos emphasized that for the group to just be starting again, and for all of them to be Freshman students, getting a 1 rating is a big thing.
“They worked hard,” he said.
He also gave credit to his volunteer assistant director Ezra Ramirez, who Ramos said is always there to help.
“Both of us have high standards for ourselves because we were both Mariachi musicians,” Ramos said. “Those standards we pass on to the students.”
That means giving praise to the aspiring musicians, but also pointing out the areas the group needs to work on.
Despite getting the 1 rating, Ramos said the group is already discussing ways to continue to improve because they now have a taste of the competition that’s outside of San Angelo.
Ezra Ramirez, the “unofficial” assistant band director, agreed with Ramos.
Ramirez volunteers his time through the VIPS program, and helps with the Mariachi group after working full-time as a City Inspector. He helps with their guitars and the “harmonia section.”
“I help them improve on their skills, memorize music and improve technique to sound cleaner,” he said.
Ramirez started helping in the fall of 2015, and said the students see him as a teacher as well, which has been “amazing.”
“It’s been amazing to see how the students’ skills have evolved,” he said.
He added that he enjoys experiencing their progress, and “it’s very rewarding to see that he’s helping influence them for the better."
“It’s something very special when they come to you and ask you to help them, to be harder on them,” he said.
Ramirez said after the UIL competition this past weekend, and hearing the other groups, the students told him, “Be harder on us. Don’t be nice to us!”
“It showed their desire they have to be better,” Ramirez stated. “It really is amazing to work with the kids.”
With the March competition coming up, Ramirez said he really hopes the students learn from the other groups they compete with because that’s how they will learn and grow as musicians.
“This will help them reach the next level of musicianship, and I really hope they make new friends who will help them on their journey to become better musicians in the Mariachi genre,” said Ramirez.
Ramos and Ramirez have quite the history with Mariachi music, so to share their experience together with the students has been a great experience. The two met in junior high as Mariachi students.
Ramirez added, “For a few years, we played with Mariachi Alma Mexicana together, and I have a whole lot of respect for him, for what he does. If he didn’t do it, I don’t know where Mariachi would be in San Angelo—the schools especially.”
As an educator, Ramos said he’s very happy that the San Angelo ISD Administration has not given up on the program.
He said, “They have been very supportive these last three years, and they’ve been able to get us some uniforms, instruments, a sound system, and the things that we need in order for us to continue to improve.”
In fact, last school year, the students got new uniforms through the help of the administration and local leaders (see that story here). The community's support has been instrumental in keeping the spirit of Mariachi alive. The uniforms cost a lot of money because they are hand-stitched, but they define the Mariachi.
However, as of yet, the Mariachi students do not have their sombreros, which is a trademark of a Mariachi. Now that the group is heading to state, local leaders decided to start a gofundme page to help the Mariachi group raise the money they need for the sombreros so they can walk into the UIL competition with pride.
“The hat really completes the entire suit,” said Ramos. “Each hat is expensive. The suits themselves are expensive. They cost about $500 to make each suit, and each hat is about $352 to make. These are all handmade hats that are made in south Texas.”
Although the cost of the suit is over $800, Ramos said the suit really adds to the professionalism of the band and brings a sense of pride to the students when they wear the suits.
"It adds a lot of encouragement to the kids as well,” said Ramos.
In regards to the sombreros, Ramirez said the students look good with their trajes, but to not have a sombrero is like missing a very big part of what the Mariachi represents. The sombrero is one of the biggest themes that the public relates to the Mariachi and Mexican culture.
“It will complete them. They’ll look professional,” he said. “It will add to the experience for them as well. They’ll have a better understanding of what professional Mariachis have out in the real world. They’ll be able to experience it better.”
In regards to experience, for those people who did not know, the Mariachi group gives performances upon request for donations.
“We have a suggested donation, and that’s all the school, the group, asks for,” said Ramirez.
He noted that money goes towards better, newer instruments, maintenance of the instruments, or towards costume maintenance and/or upgrades.
To schedule a performance, email [email protected].
For now, however, the main goal is to get the Mariachi group those sombreros. For those people who wish to help the students so they can represent San Angelo in March, click here to donate to the gofundme page.
Editor's Note: The Mariachi group was at Lincoln Middle School previously, but has moved to Lake View High School. The story has been updated with this correction.