Linda Ronstadt to Give Free Concert

It has been announced that 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival Artistic Director Linda Ronstadt will be singing with Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano in Cesar Chavez Plaza around 5 p.m. this Sunday evening, September 27, to close the annual, all-day Feria del Mariachi.  I presume she will be singing some of the classic mariachi songs from her landmark CD, “Canciones de Mi Padre.” The very popular outdoor event will be free this year, thanks to the financial support of Target.

Beginning after a 10 a.m. Mariachi Mass in the Basilica of St. Joseph’s, there will be music alternating on three stages around the plaza, ending with the Ronstadt appearance on the main stage. There will also be a children’s area with a series of events aimed at the younger generation, as well as vendors of Mexican food and crafts. It will be a great day for the entire family. Bring your chairs, blankets, open minds and ears and enjoy this unique San Jose event.

Last year, Ronstadt appeared in the Three Divas concert that stunned a packed house at the University Events Center. Her high profile directorship this year has served to bring several top musical artists to the festival, including her friends Joan Baez, Aida Cuevas, Carlos Santana and Los Lobos. It has not been announced whether Ronstadt will appear at the Baez, Cuevas or Santana/Los Lobos events, but I think attendees can consider it a distinct possibility in all cases. I’ll let our readers know anything I find out in advance as I cover the event here on SJI over the weekend.

Before the main events of the weekend, there are many other workshops, student concerts and an educational symposium on learning math through mariachi for those who are interested. Details can be accessed on the festival’s website. The big events of the weekend are:

Friday, Sept. 25: Joan Baez in “A Tribute to the Heroes of Our Heritage” at the Performing Arts Center at 8pm.
Saturday, Sept. 26: “Mariachi Goes to the Movies: A Tribute to the Golden Era of Mexican Films” at the Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m., with a performance by the “Queen of Mariachi,” Aida Cuevas (who was so incredible last year), and Mariachi Cobre.
Sunday, Sept. 27: Feria del Mariachi, three stages in and around Plaza de Cesar Chavez, 10 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., presenting folk dancing and music, family activities and Mexican food stalls. Admission will be FREE this year thanks to Target’s sponsorship.
Monday, Sept. 28: “A Concert Tribute to Cesar Chavez” at HP Pavilion at 8 p.m., with Little Joe y Familia, Los Lobos and Carlos Santana.

For times, ticket information and event schedule, go to the San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival website.

I will be blogging the festival over the weekend under this column so please feel free to join in the discussion.


  1. University of Arizona’s “Math through Mariachi” Program Makes San Jose Debut

    Wednesday’s 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival-sponsored educator’s symposium presented a unique pilot program developed at the University of Arizona for teaching math to Tucson area middle school and high school students who are budding mariachi musicians. The “Math through Mariachi” program has been operating for several years now and is showing remarkable results in greatly improving students’ math scores.  The program was first brought to the attention of festival artistic director and Tucson native Linda Ronstadt by Randy Carillo, a member of Mariachi Cobre, who will be playing during the festival and taking part in the music and dance classes.

    Several music and math teachers from Santa Clara County took part in the symposium, and it is hoped that the program will become part of the after-school curriculum in some local schools. Along with in-school instructors from the Tucson program, two of the program’s primary designers were on hand to take part in the presentation: educator and Mariachi musician Roberto Martinez (who plays the vihuela in Mariachi Cobre); and Chris Confer, a math-specialist educational consultant.

    The program operates year-round in Tucson through after-school and summer camp instruction. In practice, lessons are designed for each student musician to associate principles and processes of mathematics to the music that they are playing. In Martinez’s case, he challenges his vihuela students with questions related to the music and technique of playing the 5-string relative of the guitar. He said that there is a moment with most of his students where it’s like “turning on a light bulb” and they “get it” by understanding the practical application of mathematical knowledge for the first time.

    I would like to point out that in relating math concepts and processes to basic music theory and practice, the instruction is applicable to students of all ages who are playing any instrument. In fact, while the program has been specifically tailored to the mariachi genre, it could easily be applied to the serious study of music of any genre.

    Confer pointed out that American students perform way behind the leaders and somewhat below the international average in math scores. The students in Tucson’s “Mariachi through Music” program have shown a marked improvement in their overall scores, with 95 percent of the students in the program matching the international average, and 50 percent exceeding that standard. I would be willing to hazard a guess that the same students have become much better musicians at the same time.

    There is a great deal of interest in bringing the Tucson program to some of our local schools where music students are learning mariachi performance. Mexican Heritage Corporation CEO Marcela Davison Aviles told me that her organization has formed a task force with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to review the pilot program and develop a similar curriculum based on the experience in Tucson. I applaud this effort and would further encourage the county education office to consider adapting the program for general music instruction as well.

  2. Yawn,…news re this topic would be the organization pulling it off without City of San Jose $$$. Now that’s news. If that is occurring I would love to hear about it. And NO, I am not a racist…

    • el paso news reported that their Mexican museum is on the verge of financial collapse.  What’s with these organizations?  In spite of tens millions of dollars of private and taxpayer money infused into them over the years, and the attempt by truly talent artists & performers to rescue them, they can’t seem to become self-sustaining!

  3. Joan Baez Begins Weekend Mexican Heritage Festival Events

    Having Joan Baez open the series of high-profile weekend concerts might seem an odd choice at first, but it turns out to have been a brilliant programming decision. Her bicultural background (her physicist father Albert Baez was from Puebla, Mexico), local residence and iconic stature as an international political activist and singer certainly provide her with the credentials to fit the festival opener role. However, the great service she performed for the festival as a whole in her concert was to strategically place the traditions of Spanish-language songs (from Mexico, Spain, Chile and other Latin American countries) firmly within the context of her explorations of the “Great American Songbook,” thus affirming her own dual cultural background while illustrating and informing the intellectual and philosophical cultural crossroads the festival has become. 

    Last night’s concert was the first in a series that will take Baez and her great band of four musicians to Western Europe in the coming several weeks. Baez explained that she added several songs from her 1974 Spanish-language album, “Gracias a la Vida,” to her planned tour set list especially for the San Jose event but that the mix worked so well she has now decided to continue doing them on the tour.

    Now 68, the folk legend from the 60s has been on the road for 50 years and has been, along with 90-year-old Pete Seeger, probably the biggest and longest-lived political musical force in American history (a fact to be recognized on October 14 with the premiere of the new PBS American Masters series program on Baez). Age has not diminished the voice, presence, beauty and political idealism of this great citizen and musician, as was plain to see in the concert at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The songs she chose—including traditional spirituals, gospel, and labor and civil rights anthems—covered her entire career and many of the landmark issues and leaders she has been associated with: from Martin Luther King and the campaign for civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, Cesar Chavez and the plight of farmworkers and immigrants, unions and labor rights, and Allende and Chile, right up to the present-day anti-Iraq War movement and advocacy for the rights of the people in Iran against the current regime.

    From “Gracias a la Vida,” she chose several songs, including the title track and a bilingual version of the old labor-rights classic, We Shall Not Be Moved” (“No Nos Moverán”), which she included in her concert-center solo set. One of the high points of a concert full of them, Baez started off her solo portion with an a cappella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” dedicated to her 96-year-old mother who was in the audience. She finished the set of solo songs pairing moving versions of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and her song about her early 1960s relationship with Dylan, “Diamonds and Rust.” Another hit with me was the band’s beautiful version of the song Baez famously sang at the Woodstock Festival and seared into the mind of a generation, “The Ballad of Joe Hill,” about the Swedish-American labor activist executed in Salt Lake City in 1915 on a trumped-up murder conviction.

    Brought back for an encore, Baez and her band gave a crowd-pleasing rendition of her 1971 hit version of Robbie Robertson’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and finished up with an arresting, five-part a cappella arrangement of the spiritual “Angel Band.”

  4. Jack:

    Just curious. Are you on the Baez payroll or acting as her agent? The above entries were longer than the original write-up!