Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is excited to announce that Marisa Ronstadt will be headlining its third annual Noche de Mariachi concert Nov. 2.
The Los Angeles resident, a distant cousin of Linda Ronstadt (Marisa’s grandfather and Linda’s father were first cousins), was born and raised in Phoenix. She began performing big band, rock ’n’ roll, country, and top 40 with a musical revue called The Amigos when she was just 8 years old. She started singing mariachi at 14 when she joined South Mountain High School’s group. She was classically trained by world-renowned voice coach Manny Lujan at the age of 16 and joined another group while attending Arizona State University. Yet she shied away from the genre for several years.
“I didn’t feel like I was good enough,” she said. “I’m not fluent. I’m Mexican-American. I’m Chicana.”
That all changed in 2016 when Susie Garcia, the founder of the all-female mariachi ensemble Las Colibrí, approached Ronstadt to hire her for a show.
“At the time, the genre of music I was performing and writing was R&B, pop, and soul, and she sat me down and said, ‘Why aren’t you doing what you were trained to do? This is in your blood. This is what you should be doing. This is where your voice belongs,’” Ronstadt said. “She just kind of shook me back to a place where I felt just confident enough to dip my toe in that pool again. It was just enough encouragement.”
That encouragement has paid off with Ronstadt headlining such gigs as the wildly popular Phoenix Mariachi Festival last November at the Orpheum Theatre.
Although referring to herself as a “hired gun” who has studied multiple genres, mariachi is her true love.
“It’s a very passionate, loving, sad, wonderful genre within my culture,” she said. “I’m a vocalist who loves performing anything, but my true heart of hearts is in mariachi music.”
Ronstadt will be accompanied by another all-female mariachi group, Phoenix-based Mariachi Rubor, Nov. 2. Mariachi groups have traditionally consisted mostly of men, but that’s changing.
“All-female groups are much more common now than they were 10 years ago,” Ronstadt said. “Even though mariachi has been traditionally male-dominated, women have always existed in this genre.”
Ronstadt will perform five to six songs Nov. 2. One of them is from her cousin’s album “Canciones de Mi Padre.”
“That album was my first introduction to Linda’s music and her voice,” Ronstadt said. “It was released in 1987, and it was one of the first that I heard that I felt like I could see myself or hear myself in.”
The married mother of two is looking forward to returning to the Valley of the Sun, something she usually does over the summer and holidays to spend time with family.
“I’m an Arizona hometown girl,” she said. “And I’m excited to be coming home soon.”
Warming up the stage for Ronstadt is Danzarte Danza Folklorico, a Glendale-based ballet folklorico group comprised of children ages 5 to 17. The group has been a staple of Noche de Mariachi since its inception.
“The director of the group got a degree in Mexico City in art, so she understands the customs and the different dances for each region,” said Jonathan Robles, EMCC’s Director of Development and Alumni and the organizer of the event. “She really likes these opportunities to educate the audience. They highlight a different group of regions each year.”
Mariachi Azteca de Oro, a Phoenix-based mariachi group founded in 1981 by Fidel Amador, will follow Danzarte Danza Folklorico. In between sets, raffles will be held and alumni will offer testimonials.
“We like to bring it back to why we’re doing all of this,” Robles said.
Proceeds benefit EMCC’s Accelerating College Completion through Endowment Scholarship Support (ACCESS) endowment fund. Every dollar raised is matched by the U.S. Department of Education.
“This concert is one of the signature fundraising events for the ACCESS endowment fund,” Robles said.
The concert kicks off at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). General admission tickets cost $25 ($15 for EMCC employees and alumni). VIP tickets, which include dinner, drinks, and a swag bag, cost $50. To purchase tickets, go to https://www.estrellamountain.edu/mariachi/purchase-tickets.
New this year is an outdoor festival held prior to the concert. The inaugural Dia de los Muertos Festival will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on the north side of the PAC. Admission is free.
“We were trying to find another mechanism to engage with the community,” Robles said.
Festival-goers will be treated to mariachi music throughout the day, and the West Valley Arts Council will facilitate craft workshops, allowing patrons to take home souvenirs such as Dia de los Muertos masks and sugar skulls. The Avondale Elementary School District will be on-site with a STEM bus, and EMCC staff will be on hand to talk enrollment, registration, and more. Food and beverages will be sold by the Queso Good food truck with a portion of the proceeds going back to the ACCESS endowment fund. Decorative altars will be on display and attendees are encouraged to dress up as Catrina, the tall female skeleton wearing a fancy hat who symbolizes Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
For more information on the Dia de los Muertos Festival and third annual Noche de Mariachi, go to https://www.estrellamountain.edu/mariachi.