Best mariachi band in the world comes to Grand Rapids Symphony's Picnic Pops, Aug. 3

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Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., July 25, 2017 –  When Linda Ronstadt entered the recording studio to launch a new phase of her career with a Spanish-language record, the musicians she brought along with her already were known as the “best mariachi band in the world.”

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán appeared on the Mexican-American singer’s1986 album, Canciones de Mi Padre (Songs of My Father), which won the Grammy Award for Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album at the 31st Grammys in 1987.

Mariachi Vargas, which also toured nationally with Ronstadt, already had earned its reputation as “el mejor mariachi del mundo.” 

Join Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and the Grand Rapids Pops for one-night only on Saturday, Aug. 5 for the final concert of the 2017 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

Guest conductor Natanael Espinoza, artistic director of the Orquesta Filarmonica del Desierto (Philharmonic Orchestra of the Desert) in Mexico, leads Mariachi Vargas and the Grand Rapids Pops at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, at Cannonsburg Ski Area, 6800 Cannonsburg Rd NE.

Tickets in advance for the special event start at $24 for adults, $22 for college students and seniors, $5 for ages 2-18, and free for children under age 2 for lawn seats for the concerts underwritten by Steenstra’s as Benefactor Sponsor, Macatawa Bank as Patron Sponsor, and GR Outdoors as Series Partner.

Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 during business hours or (616) 885-1241 evenings or go online to

The musical style of Mariachi usually features at least two violins, two trumpets and at least one Spanish guitar. Mariachi Vargas’ 13 singers and musicians include six violins, two trumpets, two harps and one guitar. The group also includes one vihuela, a high-pitched, 5-string, round-backed guitar that plays rhythm; and a 6-string bass guitar known as a guitarrón.

Today, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, is the star attraction of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, a seven-day music festival, held in San Antonio, Texas. The 22nd annual festival, held last December, drew more than 1,000 mariachi musicians for three national competitions, community events, and a culminating concert by Mariachi Vargas.

The Mexican folk music ensemble founded by Gaspar Vargas traces its origin back to the 1890s and the city of Tecalitlán in the Pacific coastal state of Jalisco, the region in Mexico that gave birth to mariachi.

In the 1930s, the group earned national exposure by touring with the campaign of Mexican presidential candidate Lázaro Cárdenas del Río. The ensemble now based in Mexico City has produced more than 50 recordings and has appeared in more than 200 motion pictures.

Their sound has won numerous awards and accolades, including the title of “World’s Best Mariachi” since the 1950s. The band actively participates in international mariachi festivals in order to promote the genre and encourage young musicians

A decade ago, Houston Grand Opera commissioned the ensemble’s legendary leader, Jose “Pepe” Martinez, to write the score and collaborate with librettist Leonard Foglia to create the world’s first mariachi opera, “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (“To Cross the Face of the Moon”), which premiered in 2010 to sold-out houses in Houston and has since been performed in Paris, Chicago and Phoenix.

Guest conductor Natanael Espinoza is founder as well as artistic director of the Orquesta Filarmónica del Desierto, which is the official state orchestra of the northern Mexican state of Coahuila de Zaragoza, just across the Rio Grande from the state of Texas.

Espinoza has participated in cultural festivals, musical projects in Coahuila and in other states in Mexico. Earlier this year in January, he conducted a very successful debut of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Coahuila in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, one of the country’s grandest cultural centers, referred to as the “Cathedral of Art in Mexico.”

A native of Ensenada Blanca in Baja California, Espinoza has guest conducted the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, the Orquesta Filarmónica de Zacatecas and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Toluca, all in Mexico; and the Joven Orquesta de Cuerdas de San Salvador, in El Salvador.

About Cannonsburg Ski Area

Gates at Cannonsburg Ski Area open at 5:45 p.m. each night for picnicking and pre-concert entertainment, including free, kid-friendly activities such as face painting, crafts, and a musical instrument petting zoo.

Pack your own picnic baskets and coolers or purchase food from the grill at the Cannonsburg concession stand. Alcoholic beverages are permitted on the grounds, and parking is free for concertgoers. VIP Parking upgrades will be available for a small fee beginning in June.


Single tickets in advance for lawn seats for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán are $24 for adults, $22 for college students and seniors, $5 for ages 2-18, and free for children under age 2.

Single tickets for general admission chair seats are $34. Single tickets for an individual, reserved table seats are $51 or $408 for an entire table for eight.

MySymphony360 members can attend for $15. Active duty, reserve and National Guard members of the U.S. Military may buy up to two tickets for $15 each. All children under age 2 are admitted for free.

All single tickets for all concerts are $5 more on the day of the show.

Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more people by calling (616) 454-9451 ext. 192.

Tickets can be purchased through the GRS box office by calling (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 weekdays or (616) 885-1241 evenings; or in person at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100; or online at

Tickets also may be purchased through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787, or at Ticketmaster outlets at select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which was held in March 2017 and returns in 2019.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.