UT mariachi camp connects students to age-old musical genre

Eryn Ochoa, 15, of Edcouch-Elsa warms up before her performance at the Second Annual University of Texas at Austin Longhorn Mariachi Camp at the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music on Wednesday July 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Eryn Ochoa, 15, of Edcouch-Elsa warms up before her performance at the Second Annual University of Texas at Austin Longhorn Mariachi Camp at the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music on Wednesday July 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Young musicians participating in the University of Texas’ Longhorn Mariachi Camp this week are mastering skills in a musical genre that has roots dating back to the 19th century.

The fourth annual camp, which begins Wednesday, aims to boost the vocal and musical abilities of high school students as well as expose them to the musical opportunities available at the university. When the summer camp launched in 2013, Ezekiel “Zeke” Castro, Longhorn Mariachi camp founder and director told the Statesman he also wanted the experience to help boost the self-confidence of the high school students. Today, it’s inspired participants from across Texas.

Milagros Luna, center, a senior to be from Edinburg, TX. sings while playing in the guitar workshop at the Mariachi camp Friday afternoon July 12, 2013. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Milagros Luna, center, a senior to be from Edinburg, TX. sings while playing in the guitar workshop at the Mariachi camp Friday afternoon July 12, 2013. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On July 2, the UT Longhorn Mariachi Camp will present a free concert at 1:30 p.m. at the Bates Concert Hall in the Butler School of Music. It’s open to the public, and parking is available at the San Jacinto Garage on campus.

Castro, a trailblazer in Austin’s mariachi music scene, has been encouraging generations of local students since launching the Austin Independent School District’s first mariachi program in 1980. Many of Castro’s former students have graduated to become professional musicians. Castro directs the University of Texas’ Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán.

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