PREMONT, Texas — For the fourth straight year, and fifth time since 2016, the Premont mariachi group will be competing in the UIL state mariachi competition in June. For seniors in the group, they have competed each year of their high school careers, finishing in third in 2018 and 2019, and fourth in 2020 (the group that competed in 2016 also finished third).
The tradition of mariachi music runs deep in South Texas with its roots in Mexican culture, and it’s important at Premont high school to incorporate that culture. “It’s a part of the culture here in South Texas, it’s a huge thing. Starting in Mexico, it’s been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s important to keep that going as we celebrate the whole tradition of mariachi,” said Jorge Ryan Chapa, the Premont band director. Matthew Peña, who is a senior and plays the guitarrón in the group, started playing mariachi music when he was young, and said mariachi music is a tradition in his family. “I kind of got pushed into it, and I just kind of liked it. I just stayed in it, and I’ve been with this group for years,” Peña said. “A lot of my family members are in mariachi, and I learned from them, and it’s just really beautiful music.” Peña said earning a spot to compete for the fourth straight year, with the added difficulty of the COVID-19 pandemic, means a lot to the group. “Especially this year, with COVID and all that, it was really hard for us at the beginning of the year, but coming to it now, we’re all just super excited to be able to make it,” he said. Chapa said he is proud of the group for their hard work and perseverance to qualify for the state competition.
“It’s so inspiring, because these kids put in so much effort and dedication, even more so with the pandemic. For them to persevere through all these obstacles, I’m very proud of them for succeeding,” he said.
Another senior with the group, Jonathan Lara, who plays trumpet and sings, said the group is ready to compete against other top schools in the state.
“I know it’s going to be good, I know we’ve all worked our butts off day in and day out for four years, and I know it’s going to be really good, I’m very proud of them,” Lara said.
The mariachi group is directed by Roel Salinas at the high school, and Lara, Peña, and Chapa also gave praise to the former band director, Ernesto Cortez, for the work he put in with the group. The state mariachi competition will be held at Seguin High School on June 18 and 19.