New Bachelor of Music degree in Mariachi Education underway

  Tuesday, December 10, 2019
  Awards and Recognitions

By Letty Fernandez

UTRGV Mariachi Aztlán performed with the internationally renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, held Dec. 6-7 in San Antonio. (UTRGV Photo by Dr. Dahlia Guerra)
UTRGV Mariachi Aztlán performed with the internationally renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, held Dec. 6-7 in San Antonio. (UTRGV Photo by Dr. Dahlia Guerra)

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – UTRGV’s Mariachi Juvenil Aztlán took top honors at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest and longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas.

UTRGV’s student mariachi ensemble won first place in the university and college division, and Alex Vasquez, a voice major at UTRGV, took third place in the vocal competition.

“The competition was challenging, because everyone was super talented,” Vasquez said. “It is a great experience to be able to showcase my background as a voice major and opera singer from UTRGV, and to share the stage with my mariachi peers.”

UTRGV has two mariachi ensembles, Mariachi Juvenil Aztlán and Mariachi Aztlán, and both performed at the Extravaganza.

Mariachi Aztlán were invited to perform on the main concert stage with the internationally renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Musicians in Mariachi Aztlán are mostly upper-division students who travel throughout Mexico, Canada, and the United States and often are invited as guest clinicians to teach at the major mariachi conferences throughout the United States.

Mariachi Juvenil Aztlán is made up of first- and second-year students.

“Mariachi Juvenil worked very hard to prepare for the competition, and proudly brought the trophy home to UTRGV. And Mariachi Aztlán was a huge hit at the grand concert,” said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, associate vice president of Public Art for UTRGV. “This was also a great way to introduce the mariachi world to the new mariachi degree at UTRGV.”

More than 1,200 mariachi students from Texas, Nevada and across the country participated in the prestigious conference. The festival also included mariachi instrumental and vocal workshops and concerts by world-renowned musicians and competitions.


The new degree program, a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in Mariachi Education, was implemented this fall.

“Our legacy institutions have been the centers of mariachi education for many years, and now as UTRGV,” said Dr. Kurt Martinez, director of the UTRGV School of Music. “This degree program is unique in the nation and already has attracted students from throughout the United States to our School of Music.”

The mariachi ensembles are co-directed by Guerra and Francisco Loera, senior lecturer in the School of Music.

To learn more about the new degree program, please contact Dr. Dahlia Guerra at or Francisco Loera at or (956) 665-2353.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.