Juan and Belle Ortiz

Belle and Juan Ortiz

Juan Ortiz and his wife Belle are the founders of Mariachi Education and Mariachi Festivals in the United States and they have made a significant contribution to the Mariachi world .

Juan is recognized as the Mariachi master artist in residence from the National Endowment for The Arts. More than 30years ago, while a Mariachi instructor with the San Antonio Independent School District. He was involved with many Cultural arts Programs such as Folklorico and Mariachi. It was because Juan and Belle’s idea to create a Mariachi Program in the school district that we see so many young Mariachi groups today throughout San Antonio and the United States.

Mr.Ortiz decided to try the unthinkable a Mariachi Workshop, Competition and Concert for students. His idea was to use the world famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan from Mexico as instructors for the workshop. Juan and Belle traveled to Mexico to talk to Don Silvestre Vargas and Jose Pepe Martinez to explain his proposition to them. To Juan’s

Surprise they accepted the offer, saying they were not teachers, but would certainly help with this project.

The event was a success. It included the Educational; Mariachi Workshop for the students, where the students were taught music. The Competition, which was based on three categories: student, community and professional groups. The concert by non –other than Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, and the Mariachi Mass at the San Fernando Cathedral was to talk of San Antonio and the world.

Their idea quickly spread and soon conferences and workshops were being held in Arizona, California and Las Vegas. Mariachi USA, which is held every year at the Hollywood Bowl, was also born and today is the most popular and prestigious mariachi event held in the United States.

In the meantime, the Mariachi Program of the San Antonio Independent School District was in full bloom. The All-District Mariachi, made up of the best students from each high school was being invited every year by the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzales to the White House in Washington D.C. where they performed for his birthday celebration. Everywhere they performed they sparked interest to start the program in that city’s school districts. Juan was invited to districts in many cities to act as a consultant to help start the new programs, something he is still doing today.

Many Universities and Colleges from Texas,California,Arizona,New Mexico,Indiana, Nevada& other institutions have started the Mariachi Education in their schools

Approximately2, 000 Mariachi Programs are in existence in the United States. Mexico City and Guadalajara have started Mariachi Festivals and Concerts. In 1997 Juan started teaching at Palo Alto College in San Antonio. Concerts by his students were provided in the fall and spring of each year. An invitation for workshops & concerts to all area students has continued at Palo Alto since 1997.Juan started teaching at Our Lady of The Lake University in August 2009.

Juan & Belle’s contribution to the field of music have attributed to the thousands of students who now benefit from the Mariachi Program. It has become the music we all hold close to our hearts, a musica del mariachi

Currently Juan & Belle are both members of Grammy in the Schools. In 1989,Juan and Belle were joint recipients of the Mind Science Foundations’ Imagineer Award. The Imagineer Award is an annual search for creative visionaries who have a difference in the local community of San Antonio. In 2002, the United States House of Representatives recognized Juan and Belle was inducted into San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame.

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