Season Calendar

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  • All dates, programs, artists and pricing are subject to change.
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DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS – Honoring Mexico’s Singers & Composers*
An International Passport Presentation
Friday, November 1, 8pm

CLICK HERE to learn about the
dedicated to College Scholarships!
Includes prime seats for Día de los Muertos
and a pre-concert VIP reception!

Symphonic Mariachi Champaña Nevin
Mónica Ábrego, soprano
José Luis Duval, tenor
Rafael Palomar, tenor
Mariachi Femenil Garibaldi from Southwestern College
Ballet Folclórico Ticuán
Directed by Jeff Nevin

Experience one of the world's most colorful and magical celebrations! Día de los Muertos honors the lives and music of Mexico's most beloved singers and composers. We will honor José Alfredo Jimenez, Agustin Lara, Javier Solis, Pedro Infante, María Grever, Tomás Méndez, and others.

The performance includes San Diego favorite Mónica  Ábrego, Metropolitan opera veteran  José Luis Duval and one of the most famous mariachi musicians in the world, Rafael Palomar. With world-class singers and world-class mariachi performing some of the most passionate and exciting music, don’t miss this San Diego tradition!

*San Diego Symphony does not perform

Symphony Hall last hosted Día de los Muertos in 2010, an unforgettable experience:

San Diego Symphony Artistic Projects Manager, Leonor Xochitl Perez, Ph.D, is curator for the “¡Viva el Mariachi Femenil! 1903-2013” ("Long Live Female Mariachis!") exhibit, which runs through November 3 at the 30-year-old Women’s Museum of CaliforniaCLICK HERE to read a fascinating recent U-T San Diego feature about this exhibit and women's role in the history of Mariachi!




The "Day of the Dead" is one of the most beautiful aspects of traditional Mexican culture, and also one that many Americans (like myself) know very little about. But learning about how Mexican people celebrate their loved ones on this day and in this manner can teach us all about ourselves in unexpected ways. I always say that Americans and Mexicans really aren't that different, but then someone mentions the Dia de los Muertos (or eating fried grasshoppers!) and I question myself... until I dig a little deeper and learn that the celebration is just about paying tribute to our loved ones who are no longer living. Why don't Americans celebrate this too? Memorial Day is for honoring our fallen veterans; when do we honor our grandparents who have passed? So Americans and Mexicans do have cultural differences, but these differences should be something that we enjoy, learn about and experience, so that we might all enrich our lives in the process.


On this concert we'll feature traditional Mexican Day of the Dead music and dance (witches, skeletons, the whole bit!), but most of the concert is a celebration of the lives of Mexico's best known and most beloved singers and composers, including Pedro Infante, Lola Beltran, Javier Solis, José Alfredo Jimenez and others. We will perform some of their best known music, literally the "greatest hits of mariachi" ̶ these are the people who made mariachi what it is today ̶  and we'll all reflect on the lives of our loved ones who have passed on. The secret is this: when you celebrate the lives of people who are no longer living it reminds you that they're not really "gone" at all ̶  they are always living within you. When you hear us perform their music there can be no doubt: these artists will live on forever!


CLICK HERE to learn about the
dedicated to College Scholarships!
Includes prime seats for Día de los Muertos
and a pre-concert VIP reception!


Mariachi Champaña Nevin (Jeff Nevin, Ph.D., Artistic Director) is internationally regarded as one of the leading proponents of “classical mariachi music” in the world. Comprised of virtuoso mariachi and classical musicians, this unique ensemble fully embraces the ideals of traditional Mexican music and European Classical music. Led by composer and trumpeter Jeff Nevin, they have delighted diverse audiences across the US, Mexico and as far away as Russia, France and China for more nearly two decades. 

Jeff Nevin has created a large canon of original music scored for mariachi and symphony orchestra, including the world’s first Concerto for Mariachi and Orchestra (Pasión Mexicana), a classical song cycle scored for mariachi and orchestra (Al aire libre, based on the poetry of Alberto Blanco), a Mexican Christmas celebration (La fiesta de la nochebuena) and numerous original arrangements of traditional mariachi songs. Together with Mariachi Champaña Nevin, and occasionally alone as soloist/conductor, Jeff Nevin has performed his music with the symphonies of San Diego, Colorado, Aguascalientes, Grant Park, Jalisco, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Baja California, Zacatecas, East Texas, Santa Rosa, Idaho Falls, La Jolla, Key West, Orchestra Nova and the American Philharmonic in Sonoma County. And Mariachi Champaña Nevin has performed with many of Spain and Mexico’s finest singers, including Placido Domingo, Jorge Lopez-Yañez, Mónica Ábrego, José Luis Duval, Rafael Jorge Negrete, Florencia Tinoco and José Medina.

Mariachi Champaña Nevin recently released their fifth album, Nuestra Navidad, a groundbreaking two-CD set featuring beloved Mexican and American Christmas carols along with classical favorites including Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Pachelbel’s Canon. And their annual “Día de los Muertos” concert celebration has received wide acclaim, becoming a much-anticipated tradition in San Diego.


Jeff Nevin, Ph.D., is a professional classical trumpet player, mariachi trumpeter and soloist, a conductor specializing in the interpretation of Mexican music and an award-winning composer whose works have been performed by the San Diego, Colorado, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Key West, East Texas, Santa Rosa, Desert, Idaho Falls, Baja California and La Jolla Symphonies, as well as Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Sol de México. Together with Mariachi Champaña Nevin, he has established a reputation for presenting the highest quality classical and mariachi music performed with the mariachi alone, with symphony orchestras and appearing with world-renowned singers. These include Placido Domingo, Aida Cuevas, Fernando de la Mora, Jorge Lopez-Yañez, José Luíz Duval, Mónica Ábrego and others. In addition to numerous performances in the US and Mexico, he recently returned from performing tours in France (2012), China (2010), France (2010) and Russia (2009).

Dr. Nevin earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Illinois, Arizona State University and UC San Diego respectively, and he is currently Professor of Music and Director of Mariachi Activities at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, CA. At Southwestern Dr. Nevin devised and is now offering the world’s first college degree in mariachi music. He is also a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University, the 5th largest and one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. In 2011 the Mexican government presented him with the first “Award for Arts and Culture”. In 2008 he was named “California Multicultural Music Educator of the Year” and also accepted the position of Director of Youth Music Programs for San Bernardino’s Sinfonía Mexicana. In addition to countless television, radio and print interviews, Dr. Nevin has been featured in the documentary films In the Name of Mariachi Music, Viva el Mariachi and The History Channel en Español’s El Mariachi
Jeff Nevin's first book, Virtuoso Mariachi (University Press of America, 2002), was called “a major milestone in the history of mariachi music” by the Tucson Citizen newspaper. He has written a comprehensive set of method books, Mariachi Mastery (Neil A Kjos Music Company, 2006), that is used to teach mariachi music in classrooms across the United States and Mexico. 


Soprano Mónica Ábrego is one of the most important singers to come out of Northwestern Mexico. Ms. Ábrego began her studies at the Baja California Music Conservatory, later studied with Mary McKenzie at San Diego State University before earning her Bachelor’s Degree at the Manhattan School of Music.

Her wonderfully expressive voice has won her great public acclaim as well as awards from the Mexican National Fund for Art and Culture, the Musical Merit Foundation of San Diego, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, La Jolla Symphony and Chorus Association and the International Rotary Club Award.

In 2003, she made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall with Pacific Opera, and on repeated occasions from 2005 to 2008 she sang in the same Hall as well as in Merkin Hall at Lincoln Center.

Her operatic roles include: “Narcissa” from La Clementina in Lucca, Italy; “Serpina” from La Serva Patrona in Tijuana Bach Festival; “Norina” from Don Pasquale with Opera de Tijuana; “Lauretta” from Gianni Schicchi, “Gilda” from Rigoletto, “Magda” from Rondine, “Violetta” from la Traviata, “Manon” from Manon, “Musetta” and “Mimi” from la Bohème, “Olympia” from Tales of Hoffmann, “Nanetta” from Falstaff, “Susanna” from Le Nozze di Figaro in Bulgaria and “Gretel” from Hänsel und Gretel in Chihuahua.

Ms Ábrego has participated as a soloist with the following orchestras: Orchestra of Baja California, La Jolla Symphony, The Israel Tifereth Symphony, Imperial Valley Symphony Orchestra, The Manhattan School of Music Symphony, Colorado Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Aguascalientes Symphonic Orchestra, Chihuahua’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Key West Symphony, Delaware Symphony and Symphonic Orchestra of Bulgaria. She has participated in a bi-national (2009) and national (2008) tour through Mexico and the US with Chihuahua’s Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mónica Ábrego’s passion for music has also given her the opportunity to perform Mexican folk and classical music throughout Mexico and in the United States in California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York and Florida with Mariachi Champaña Nevin, Mariachi San Francisco de Guadalajara and Mariachi Real de Mexico in New York City. In September 2010 she performed and produced “Mexico in the Heart” a concert at the Metropolitan Museum in NY.


Mexican tenor José Luis Duval has thrilled audiences in some of the most prestigious theatres in his native country, South America, the United States and Europe, in both opera, zarzuela and with mariachi.

Born in Guanajuato, Mr. Duval has sung under the direction of such conductors as Maestros Placido Domingo, Enrique Patrón, Alfredo Silipigni, Miguel Roa, Ronald Zollman and Jorge Mester. Mr. Duval was conducted by Placido Domingo in the zarzuela Luisa Fernanda in Mexico and was invited by Maestro Domingo to perform the zarzuela Doña Francisquita with The Washington Opera.

At the Bellas Artes Mr. Duval has sung many roles, including Manrico in Il Trovatore and Loris in Fedora, alternating with Placido Domingo. He sang Rodolfo in la Bohème with the Pittsburgh Opera and throughout Mexico and has sung Calaf in Turandot, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Cavaradosi in Tosca and Don José in Carmen, among many others. In concert he has sung Orff's Carmina Burana, Handel's Messiah, Verdi's Requiem, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Paulu's The Saint Mathew's Passion. José Luis Duval has also starred as The Phantom of the Opera and appeared in the play Master Class.

Recent engagements include numerous appearances across Mexico, Spain, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Argentina and with many American opera companies including those of Los Angeles, Carolina, Palm Beach, Connecticut, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Arizona and others. In 2005 Placido Domingo asked Mr. Duval, on very short notice to replace Marcello Giordani as Cavaradossi in Tosca with The Washington National Opera. He had a personal triumph and received a glowing review in The Washington Post, devoted almost entirely to his performance, with a headline that read, “Duval Shines in Washington Opera’s Tosca.”

In 2005 Mr. Duval made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Rodolfo in la Bohéme and his Met broadcast debut in the same role that same year. Since then he has been invited back often to perform with the Met, including appearances as Alfredo in La Traviata, the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto (with the Met in the Parks), and Rodolfo in la Bohème.

Born in the port of Veracruz, Mexico, Rafael Palomar began playing in the Plaza Garibaldi with different groups at the age of 13 while studying in the Escuela Libre de Música in Mexico City. Directed by his father Roman Palomar, Rafael performed with Mariachi Charros de Ameca for 15 years. The group cut their first recording of the famous song composed by his father, “Mariachi Loco.” Rafael traveled to the United States with Mariachi Charros de Ameca to accompany El Charro del Misterio and Las Jilguerillas.

At 17 Mr. Palomar became a member of Mariachi Latino, working in the well-known restaurant "Plaza Santa Cecilia" in Mexico City; he accompanied famous singers such as Las Hermanitas Nuñez, Marco Antonio Vaszuez, Manuel López Ochoa, Magda Franco, Maria Elena Sandoval and many more. From 15-22 years of age he had the opportunity to record productions of Los Hermanoz Zaizar, Federico Villa and others with his father. Rafael was then invited to join world-famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, with whom he traveled to many countries including the USA, Japan, Holland, Canada, China, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Peru. During his time with Mariachi Vargas he accompanied world renowned singers Lucha Villa, Lucero, Beatriz Adriana, Estela Nuñez, Aída Cuevas and Guadalupe Pineda, among others. In his 23-year tenure, Rafael quickly became one of Vargas’ lead singers and was instrumental in teaching and influencing Vargas’ younger singers. A very significant aspect of his work with Mariachi Vargas was his participation in approximately 35 recordings, considered classics in the genre today.

Palomar retired at age 47 and has, since then, worked as musical director for Ezequiel Peña, accompanying him on his tour of Mexico with his Mariachi Palomar de Ameca. He also directed Peña's band.

Rafael Palomar currently resides in Sylmar, California and is the lead instructor for music and performances for the Sinfonia Mexicana Mariachi Youth Academy. He also provides voice lessons and specializes in teaching students the importance of stage presence.

Mariachi Femenil Garibaldi from Southwestern College (Jeff Nevin, Ph.D., Artistic Director) is the performing ensemble from Southwestern College, the first school in the world to offer a college degree in mariachi music. Students study mariachi performance, music theory, instrumental and vocal technique, mariachi history as well as general education requirements. Former students have gone on to receive Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Music and to perform mariachi professionally; they are beginning to fill the great need for mariachi teachers that exists across the United States today.

Mariachi Garibaldi has performed numerous engagements in and around San Diego including several national education conferences. They have been featured in both American and Mexican national news broadcasts, including a prominent role in the documentary In the Name of Mariachi Music which details the impact the United States is having on the history and future of mariachi.

Mariachi Garibaldi’s concerts at Southwestern College consistently sell out. They have traveled to perform for the famed “Encuentro de Mariachi” in Guadalajara nearly every year since 2002, and they have recently performed in Russia (2012 & 2009), France (2012 & 2010) and China (2010). They recorded a 2-CD set Mariachis Garibaldi in 2009, and their version of “Hotel California” was featured on the recording Mariachi Rock-O along with Mariachi Vargas, Sol de Mexico and others.


Ballet Folclórico Ticuán will dance several numbers on the Días de los Muertos program. Throughout the history of Mexico, art and dance has had an important foundation in the social lives of her people. The festivals and ceremonies of our ancestors included a great variety of cultural activities where poetry, song, music and dance were an integral part of life. The arrival of Europeans brought with it a series of changes; language, clothing, political organization and above all religious beliefs were radically influenced. This fusion of cultures created a mestizaje (“blending”) whose identity can be expressed as a living form with manifestations. In one these manifestations you will find danza folclórica (“folkloric dance”).

It is here that we encounter a nationalistic vision, the values and traditions of the Mexican people, and the manner in which these elements relate to our present moment. In danza folclórica is represented the knowledge of a pueblo, its genius, its manner of contemplating and viewing life, its beliefs and manner of expressing them. It is due to the force of our indigenous roots and the profound, significant foreign influences that Mexican culture is distinguished as one of the most beautifully rich and colorful in the world. 

Ballet Folclórico Ticuán celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2007 by transforming into a full-fledged dance company: "Compañía de Danza Ticuán" has 80 participants today, including professional dancers performing ballet and traditional Mexican dance, as well as students of all ages and levels of ability learning to perform these dances. They exist to promote and present Mexican art and culture through folkloric dance, elevating the identity, traditions, and customs of Mexico with a unique character where they combine research, creative scenery and color with the mission of presenting spectacular performances that are appreciated by people of diverse backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. 

Ballet Folclórico Ticuán has received numerous honors and awards including first place at international dance festivals in Chihuahua, Jalisco, New York, Corpus Christi, and Chicago. They have recently traveled to perform Mexican dance at international festivals In Taiwan, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Malta. 


CLICK HERE to learn about the
dedicated to College Scholarships!
Includes prime seats for Día de los Muertos
and a pre-concert VIP reception!

Watch & Listen,

Clip of Southwestern College's Mariachi Garibaldi (directed by Jeff Nevin) featured on Día de los Muertos:


Beginning clip of the documentary In the Name of Mariachi Music:


More with Symphonic Mariachi Champaña Nevin and soprano Mónica Ábrego:


November 1, 2013

  • Overview
  • Notes
  • Artists
  • Watch & Listen