Mariachi has officially given machismo the boot. Women have trumpeted their arrival with a groundbreaking win at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, and a duo of talented Southwestern College alumnae helped to blaze the way.
Former SWC Mariachi Garibaldi musicians Jillian Kardell, 21, and Carolina Hidalgo, 21, shared a Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Music Album as members of the all-women’s ensemble Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea for its album, “A Mi Manera” (“My Way”).
Kardell and Hidalgo credited their training at SWC under Professor of Music Dr. Jeff Nevin for propelling their careers and for being a global force for women in mariachi music. Mariachi Garibaldi is considered the world’s best collegiate mariachi program.
“When I joined, I didn’t really know much,” said Hidalgo. “He really taught me a lot of technique and a lot of ways to improve on my music. Being in the group really taught me a lot, really taught me how to be a good musician.”
Hidalgo joined the Divas last October after auditioning at a mariachi festival in Rosarito, Baja California. Neither she or Kardell saw this coming.
“I was a baby,” Kardell said. “I’m just a little girl from Southwestern College. I never imagined that something this big would happen coming out of San Diego.”
A chemistry major at UC Irvine, Kardell’s “weekend job” includes playing violin and singing with the Mariachi Divas. She said she first picked up the violin in third grade and went on to play mariachi in middle school because there was no classical strings program. She immediately fell in love with it, she said, and by the time she got to high school, she was at a much higher skill level than her peers. She enrolled at SWC and met Nevin, who has fond memories of his former students.
“They were important and had performed with us and traveled with us,” he said. “(Kardell had) gone with us to the World Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara on many of our trips.”
Practicing three hours a week with SWC Mariachi Garibaldi and countless hours at home locked in her bathroom to emphasize the acoustics of her violin, Kardell said she is dedicated to doing what she loves.
“When it comes to professionalism and how you present yourself, I want to keep growing as a musician and as a person,” she said.
Kardell has the support of her mother, Juliet Kardell, who works for the SWC MESA program.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Juliet Kardell said. “It’s kind of a joke now, because it’s the third time she’s had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Juliet Kardell now counts herself as a mariachi fan.
“It’s been really rewarding for her,” she said. “There were days I literally had to pry the violin bow from her chubby little hands. Who would have thought that that would lead to the Grammys?”
Like most college students, Kardell sometimes struggles to balance school and work – even when your job is playing for a Grammy-winning mariachi group.
“There is something beautiful about this job,” she said. “It will be better tomorrow and with guidance from mentors Cindy Shea and Beto Jimenez, you know that it will be.”
Nevin said he is proud of his Divas.
“There are only a handful of mariachi groups that are really at the top of the field,” he said. “We’ve had a number of our students go into several of the top mariachi bands.”