"Mr. Valverde taught me to work hard and never give up on our youth," said Juan Sarmiento, a past student and current Deming Mariachi. "Along with DHS band director Bernie Chavez, the two have been my top musical influences in my music career."
Sarmiento, a veteran member of Corazon del Desierto, has branched off into an all-female production of Mariachi here in Deming. He presents Mariachi Rosas del Desierto who were chosen to open the 19th annual conference this week in Las Cruces. The conference began Wednesday and will run through Sunday.
The group actually performed at Wednesday's conference opening, but as an added privilege, the group was also selected to the conference student showcase. Only five Mariachi groups are selected to perform for Friday's 7 p.m. student showcase at Centennial High School. The major core of the conference - featuring professionals and adult groups - is held at the Pan-American Center.
"It was a selection process where we submitted an audition tape to the selection committee," Sarmiento said. "From that process, they selected the girls to perform in the student showcase."
Sarmiento said Rosas are one of only two all-female groups in the state. To his knowledge, no other all-girl Mariachi group has ever made the student showcase. The other group hails from Española, according to Sarmiento.
The group was formed in July of this year, with the help of Corazon members and musical instructors Leticia Sarmiento, Joel Rivera and Marisela Sanchez.
They consist of 11 high school students with an average age of 14.
"A good number of students wanted to perform outside of the school program and I decided to form the group," Sarmiento said. "This gave them an outlet to reach out to the community and surrounding areas to share their music and the Hispanic culture Mariachi brings."
The all-female aspect of the group was not initially by design. "We only got a couple of boys who were interested and we decided to go with an all-girl group." Sarmiento said.
Corazon del Desierto was the last Deming group to qualify for a showcase back in 2010.
Between rehearsals and school, the group worked hard to raise money for the group's trajes (Spanish for traditional Mariachi suits).
"We held enchilada dinners, raffles and played on Sunday's at La Fonda Restaurant," Sarmiento said. "El Rey Meat Market helped us on a big raffle prize and that helped us greatly."
Trajes can run in excess of $7,000, depending on the number of musicians. An average Mariachi group, - including violins, trumpets and Armonia (guitars, vihuela and guitarron) - is 10 to 15 members.
The conference lends itself to an international flavor, featuring groups from all over the world and headlined by famous artists; Lola Beltran, Aida Cuevas, Ana Gabriel, Vikki Carr, Linda Ronstadt, Pepe Aguilar and Pedro Fernandez.
"This will be the first all-female Mariachi group to have ever made a showcase," Sarmiento said. "It is an honor for each and every girl to represent the community of Deming and, most importantly, their culture on stage Friday night at Centennial High School."