Opportunity came a-knockin' on March 30th and I was glad that I was at home to answer the call.

The great people at AEG Worldwide (Scott Hanley, Vice President of Events for LA LIVE and Ashley Fields, his Executive Assistant) in Los Angeles were interested in presenting a FREE Battle of The Mariachi on May 5th and they were told by Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, the Executive Director at The Mission San Juan Capistrano, that I might be able to help. Since the MSJC is considered the creator of this concept in the USA, Mechelle's referral was taken seriously. When contacted, I was concerned that the window of opportunity was closing quickly since the two busiest days of the year for mariachi are El Grito (September 16th) followed closely by Cinco de Mayo but I immediately offered my services to help Scott and Ashley realize their dream. I guess that all the stars were aligned properly because the festivities that we were able to host were a huge success.

The six participating mariachi that I was able to sign on were all top flight:

Mariachi Orgullo de San Diego, a young up-and-coming group  that traveled all the way from San Diego, under the musical direction of Gary Veronesi

Mariachi Puno de Oro, the advanced students from Rhythmo, Inc., a non-profit organization from Anaheim, under the direction of maestro Gabriel Zavala

Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando, members of the award-winning and nationally recognized arts-in-education program from the City of San Fernando's Mariachi Master Apprentice Program (MMAP), under the direction of Jesus 'Chuy' Guzman and Sergio 'Checo' Alonso, members of the Grammy winning Los Camperos de Nati Cano

Mariachi Nueva Generacion, one of the only truly internationally diverse groups in the country (with members from Haiti, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico, and the USA) based in LA, under the direction of Michelle Anglade

Mariachi Los Toros, a ensemble of young classically trained music professionals who have performed at LA's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and The Hollywood Bowl, led by their director, Carlos Parra

and Mariachi Voz de America, internationally acclaimed and recognized by being selected to play three separate times at Guadalajara's world renowned Annual Encuentro Internacional del Mariachi, under the leadership of Richard Mata

In addition, while presenting "Mariachi 101" at California State University Northridge just two short weeks before the event, I was fortunate to meet Ernesto Molina, the director of the nationally known professional group, Mariachi Estrella de Jalisco, who offered to have his incredible musicians play a complimentary set while the judges were deliberating. Their rendition of the classic 'Czardas' by DiMonti was probably the standout performance of this incredible evening's entertainment.

Speaking of the judges, they were also of the highest caliber: Herman Rodriguez, Ph.D., Professor of Chicano/a Studies at CSUN and noted ranchero singer/composer; Lauryn Salazar, Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from UCLA as well as Musical Director of Mariachi Uclatlan; and Desiree Garcia, BA in Ethnomusicology from UCLA and acclaimed music teacher who was an original member of the Grammy Award-nominated Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles

My bilingual co-emcee was the 14 year old Genesis Codina...ranchera singer, actress, and model... who was recently chosen as Miss Quinceanera Magazine's cover girl and international spokesperson. Her opening vocal performance set the appropriate tone of excellence that continued throughout the event. Another special feature was her modeling six beautiful gowns (provided by the magazine) during the evening's festivities..

The judges' decision, after a hard-fought competition, found Los Toros, Voz de America, and Tesoro de San Fernando capturing the top three places, respectively, as well as the cash prizes that accompanied them.

In keeping with the excellence of all the proceedings,  the thousands of attendees were also able to purchase Mexican cuisine (prepared by the world famous Wolfgang Puck) and libations from the adjacent beer and margarita garden stations.

We look forward to being part of this event once again in 2012.