TAMU-CC’s Mariachi De La Isla strives to move forward despite Covid-19

Mariachi+De+La+Isla+at+the+Performing+Art+Center+where+they+will+livestream+a+performance+on+Nov.+11.

Mariachi De La Isla at the Performing Art Center where they will livestream a performance on Nov. 11.

Karina Garcia, Riptide Anchor

Mariachi De La Isla is a uniquely talented group of musicians who come together to bring the sound of Hispanic culture live in their featured concerts. They are known for their bright colored suits and heartfelt performances that unite not just the Island community but their hometown of Corpus Christi. Like many musicians, the coronavirus pandemic has brought its fair share of complications and cancellations. Now the group is looking forward to a hopeful semester where they plan to schedule safe performances and hold a Mariachi Festival in May.

The associate professor and music director for Mariachi de la Isla, Dr. Rai Morales, said that student safety is a number one priority, right alongside student learning. “We want to keep our students healthy, especially in music classes. A large majority of our ensembles are face-to-face,” said Morales, “If one student gets sick, that one student also participates in many ensembles and that could spread in our area pretty quick.

“We have been rehearsing since the first week of school… When it comes to ensembles and music, it is really difficult to get large ensembles to rehearse virtually,” continued Morales. He explained that rehearsals usually involve a musician group of 15 to 18 people. This semester they safely rehearse every Friday with 10 students while adhering to social distancing guidelines and with the usage of face masks.

Morales added that a percentage of their original ensemble did not return this semester for a majority of reasons that included students graduating, pursuing personal interests like  field teaching, field learning and observing as well other reasons due to Covid-19. However, Mariachi De La Isla are open for auditions and is always looking for new talent.

Director James Moore revealed that last year’s Mariachi Festival, originally set in May, was cancelled due to reasons presented by Covid-19. Moore explained that spring semester might still be a little early for live performances, which is why they are planning to hold the Mariachi Festival virtually on May 1st. Still he remains hopeful to the idea of a live performance.

Professional assistant professor Amanda Marquez said, “I think what is going to be critical for us in terms of pulling this off is developing our campus, and community partnerships.” She also added that they gather inspiration from this year’s virtual Mariachi Festival called Encuentro, held in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

Additionally, Hispanic Heritage Month coordinator Andrea Montalvo-Hamid clarified that Mariachi De La Isla is not a typical mariachi group, in the sense that they gain profit from their performances. “People approach Dr. Morales and ask can they do this wedding? Can they do this quinceanera?… It is a student mariachi but they take the course, they have other jobs and classes… A lot of people, because they are used to mariachi performing at weddings, they see them, they just assume they are another mariachi that you could look up (to book for events).”

Moreover, mariachi groups are designed for eight to 12 musicians, but Morales explained there will always be room for more. “My thing is that if we over recruit, I am not turning away anybody. I will request more trajes, I will request more uniforms,” said Morales, “I can ask to maybe have two Mariachis’ instead of just one, I won’t turn away anybody.” Additionally, auditions are not limited to just music majors, they are open to anyone interested in being a part of the university’s Mariachi Band.

Members of Mariachi De La Isla will be able to perform classics from Vicente Fernandez, Selena Quintanilla and Alejandro Fernandez as well as other well-known pieces like Cielito Lindo, La Bamba and Guadalajara just to name a few.

As for now, Morales said that they will hold a virtual concert on Nov. 11 at 7:30 pm. If you are interested in auditioning for Mariachi De La Isla, make sure to email Dr. Rai Morales for further details.