“Mariachi Is More Than Music,” Says Skyline High Alum Who Created First All-State Youth Ensemble

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Ally Rodriguez has always been passionate about music, but she didn’t know how much the mariachi genre would impact her life until she started playing it herself.

“Before I joined a real mariachi band, I always thought of mariachi as just a genre of music,” she said. “Now I can really play it, enjoy it and feel that energy for it. It’s one of those things where you don’t know exactly how it is until you experience it yourself.

Rodriguez, a Longmont native and 2021 Skyline High School alumnus, is one of only twelve musicians selected for Colorado’s Mariachi Estelares — Colorado’s premier all-state youth mariachi ensemble.

Both a violinist and singer, Rodriguez auditioned for the ensemble in August by submitting a video to the Latino Cultural Arts Center in Denver.

“I was really nervous,” she said. “I couldn’t see myself getting in because it’s the whole state.”

On September 25, Mariachi Estelares had their first performance in which they opened for prominent mariachi musician Lupita Infante at the Viva Southwest Mariachi Festival in Denver.

Rodriguez learned that the band had performed to an audience of over 3,800 people. After the concert, she said that many tears of joy were shed.

“It was a really proud moment for all of us,” she said. “I felt very lucky to be able to achieve something that I honestly never thought I would achieve.”

The ensemble includes musicians between the ages of 14 and 20. Rodriguez is one of three members from Boulder County, with the other two representing Niwot High School.

“We will meet in April to see when we will play again,” she said.

Rodriguez, 19, is a freshman majoring in music education at Metropolitan State University in Denver. She plays in the symphony orchestra and plans to join MSU’s mariachi ensemble soon.

Rodriguez learned the violin in sixth grade, but it wasn’t until her freshman year at Skyline that she joined the school’s mariachi program. She said she clicked on it right away.

“Mariachi is so much more than music,” she said. “It’s a sense of community and family. You share this love with a group of different people who are all there for the same reason.

Rodriguez said if she had to describe the mariachi genre in one word, it would be “passionate.”

“It’s full of joy, full of energy,” she says. “It could lift the spirits of an entire crowd the moment they hear the song’s opening note.”

Music is in the family for Rodriguez. His mother sings and his father and brother are instrumentalists. She and her family are also part of a worship team at Vida Abundante Church in Longmont.

“My parents set an incredible example of what music really is,” she said.

Juanita Vasquez, Rodriguez’s grandmother, said she was proud but not surprised that her granddaughter made the set.

“I know she has so much potential,” Vasquez said. “I was so happy for her.”

Skyline High School band and mariachi teacher Brian Crim, who encouraged Rodriguez to audition for Mariachi Estelares, said he was thrilled to see her get the opportunity. Crim attended the concert on Sunday, where he saw Rodriguez perform the first vocal solo of the performance.

“The mariachi has cultural and traditional significance behind it, especially for our Latino population here in Longmont,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of something so meaningful.”

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