¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! proudly announces the return of Mariachi Los Camperos! The 13 members of the Grammy-winning ensemble—all master instrumentalists and vocalists—offer free family performances at Isla Vista School, at 7 p.m., on Friday, January 11; at Guadalupe City Hall, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., on Saturday, January 12; and at the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Santa Barbara Jr. High, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., on Sunday, January 13.
The story of Los Camperos began in Jalisco, México, the heartland of mariachi tradition and birthplace of Natividad Cano, who learned to play all of the mariachi instruments from his father and grandfather. At age eight Cano entered the Academía de Música in Guadalajara to study violin, later touring the country in a chamber orchestra but always returning home to play mariachi with his family. In 1950 Cano moved Mexicali where he became the arranger and youngest member of Mariachi Chapala. Ten years later he moved to Los Angeles to join Mariachi Aguila, the house band at Los Angeles’ famous Million Dollar Theatre. Assuming leadership in 1961, he renamed the group Los Camperos – The Countrymen. Throughout his career, Cano pushed to move mariachi beyond the cantina into an appreciated art form, and in 1990 he was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as a National Heritage Fellow.
Jesus Guzmán, long time musical director for Los Camperos, assumed the leadership on Nati Cano’s passing in 2014. A sought after arranger and producer, Guzmán has been on faculty at UCLA’s Herp Alpert School of Music for 20 years and directs the Music of Mexico Ensemble as well as the Jazz Combo. In 2016, under Guzmán’s direction the group released Tradición, Arte y Pasión, which was nominated for a Grammy, and then Moviemiento in 2017. Also in 2017, Los Camperos released their first official music video, the classic Maria Linda, with solos by Jonathan Palomar. Los Camperos have recently released Recuerdos de Mi Vida in the U.S. Recorded with the Falarmónica de Querétero, the recording features Los Camperos symphonic repertoire.
In 2016, Los Camperos re-opened La Fonda, their long-time mariachi theater dinner venue in Los Angeles. With a renewed commitment to the ideals of the original La Fonda, the site is a historic-cultural landmark and a primary presenter of world-class mariachi artists.
Mariachi Los Camperos have been influential as a premier performing ensemble and as educators. The afterschool program founded by Nati Cano in 2001, now under the direction of Los Camperos harpist Sergio Alonzo, was awarded first prize in the California State Fair Youth Mariachi Competition in July 2018. According to Jesus Guzmán, speaking to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, “Currently there is a huge movement among youth [in mariachi] and this, in a way, is making the school districts include mariachi classes to their curriculum. The youth have become interested in our music, and with the activities that relate to it.”
In January 2018 Los Camperos joined New York City Opera in the New York premier of Cruzar la Cara de La Luna. Recognized as the first mariachi opera, Cruzar is the wrenching personal story of an immigrant’s memories of struggle and loss, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera in 2010. For Guzmán, this performance stretches the conventional borders of mariachi and is essential to the future of the tradition. “It is important that we continue to preserve our regional music but also to work with other genres where mariachi music can be heard and appreciated.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/vivaelartesb.