Emalee Guarneros didn’t pick up a violin until she was a sophomore at Los Fresnos High School, where she is a 2009 graduate.
Now, as an accomplished violinist, she is one of the female violinists in Mariachi Ocelotetlán, the student mariachi ensemble of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
Guarneros and the troupe most recently performed on Friday in The Arts Center on the UTB and TSC campus. The concert was a fundraiser for their upcoming journey to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Mariachi Ocelotetlán has been invited by in St. Petersburg to perform at university and city venues from May 15-22. The ensemble will be sharing its unique sound with students and citizens of historical St. Petersburg at a time when summer has finally arrived, and the city will be alive with White Nights festivities.
“We are all so excited,” Guarneros said. “This is such an amazing opportunity for us to learn and grow in our musicality, and I am sure the Russians will fall in love with mariachi music.”
The middle of two sisters, Guarneros grew up with music around the house; her father is a singer, and his love of music was passed on to all his daughters. The oldest was first to play violin in the Los Fresnos High School mariachi; the youngest is now playing guitar with LFHS mariachi, and she wants to follow in her big sister’s footsteps and study music.
“Our dad is such a great supporter; he’s always at all our concerts,” Guarneros said.
After having played only mariachi music during high school, Guarneros said she had a bit of a learning curve to overcome when she began her studies in the Department of Music at UTB and TSC.
“I had to relearn some of my less-than-ideal techniques,” she said. “And I was introduced to classical music and classical violin, and I found I really enjoy that aspect of my music, too.”
But mariachi will always be her passion, she said. In fact, love of mariachi music brought her and her husband together. He was playing with Mariachi Ocelotetlán when she joined the band. Now he is musical director for Banda Sinaloense La Kineña that plays at big venues around the country.
Guarneros also plays with a band, Mariachi Valle Real, generally performing on weekends for events such as weddings. The band, the university ensemble, maintaining her studies and her two-year-old daughter keep Guarneros on her toes.
She hopes by the time her daughter is in elementary school, the school system will have established a strings program.
“It’s ideal for students to start on an instrument when they are youngsters,” Guarneros said. “I dream of starting a strings program in Brownsville; l would love for that to happen. We have the UTB and TSC Music Academy and the B-Smart Children’s Orchestra, but that is not enough. We need to reach more elementary kids. I want to see it in the school system. We have the amazing Arts Center; what a wonderful place for the students to play.”
Guarneros will receive her bachelor’s in music education in May of 2014.
“I love to work with little kids, I’m looking forward to bringing music into their lives,” she said. “Music has turned out to be such an important part of my life.”
Tax-deductible donations to help with the trip expenses can be submitted to Alberto M. Juarez,
Director, UTB Advancement Services, 80 Fort Brown, Brownsville, TX 78520. Please make checks out to UT Brownville and indicate “Mariachi” in the subject line.
Cheryl Taylor is a writer in the Office of News and Information at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.