We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Shea and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindy, how do you think about risk?
Risk taking has been what has driven me in my career from the beginning. Deciding to start an all female mariachi band in 1999 as a gringa (Irish/Italian American) jumping into the Regional Mexican music world was not as welcoming as I hoped not would be. I was a 25 year old trumpet player who had already spent years in college studying Music Ed at Cal State Fullerton University and also Jazz Performance on a full ride scholarship rewarded by mentor Arturo Sandoval (trumpet extraordinaire. Jumping into the mariachi world not only as a musician but as a leader was a risk since I had no background in this field. When introduced to mariachi music I was performing shows with LA Based Salsa Band “Yari More” and Queen of Salsa “Celia Cruz”. I had fallen in love with the music when I was invited to perform with another all female mariachi “Las Alondras”, but this was very different then then jazz and salsa world I was coming from. I loved the pride of the musicians and the respect that was carried when putting on the mariachi suit and performing. for crowds of all generations.
I went for it and Mariachi Divas was born in 1999. I thought being a female trumpet player in a man dominating world would be a challenge, but I think more of the challenge was the fact that I introduced mariachi music in a different way than most were used to. I had developed a group of women from all of the world (different nationalities.) and we added a unique flavor not heard at that time. I incorporated other genres of music new instrumentation not common in that moment like flutes and percussion. We added improvisation, original songs, and even songs in English. I loved that I was opening doors to new cultures to listen and also fall in line with Mariachi Music the way I did. The risk I took was heavy on me because I got told many times I was not a “real” mariachi and that was something hard for me to understand. I knew doing things in an unique way with a new fusion of sounds would grab attention, but it was hard to feel like I was not welcomed into the new community of mariachi.
I didn’t let it stop me. Many didn’t understand that I was being me and being real. For me to not express music from my heart would not make sense. I loved all genres and I found ways to incorporate my favorite styles into the mariachi and I loved it ! So I decided to take new risks and produce and record albums. Little did I ever imagine that in 2009 I would be the first female mariachi ever to be nominated for an American Grammy and the to win that same year. I then won my second Grammy for the same category Best Regional Album of the Year in 2014 making history for women in mariachi. Since then I have had 8 Grammy Nominations (album) and 3 Latin Grammy Nominations through composition and arranging. I am releasing my 17th album of Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea on May 28, 2021 honoring the late composure Armando Manzanero with album “Cantemos a Manzanero”. If it wasn’t for the risk of starting the mariachi and staying strong enough to believe in the music we were making I would never be where I am today. Number one very strong and determined. I am a leader and I teach, inspire, and encourage anyone who comes in contact with me to take risks and follow their dreams. Without risk I wouldn’t. be the woman I have become because I am an avid believer that nothing is impossible when you work hard for it and believe in your goal. Today I can say I still have the utmost pride leading Mariachi Divas 22 years now, and finally I feel the love and respect from the mariachi community I dreamt of having so very long. The mariachi musicians truly because and are essential musicians as this was proven during the Covid 19 Pandemic. Mariachi truly is a music loved by the entire world and when I put my suit on to perform I know I am representing women, risk takers, but also the beautiful country of Mexico with every note I play. Greatest honor musically one could dream of, and I get to live it daily. I am so truly blessed.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think I answered most of threes questions in my previous answers. I would like to add some of the lessons I have learned after 22 years since starting my band, Mariachi Divas. The greatest lesson and advice I learned and would like to give to younger generations is to not let negativity stop you. I wish so much I could go backwards and simply “not care” what others were saying about me or my band. I realize now that any time I wasted worrying about others opinions could have been spent building up the beautiful Divas. Which brings me to lesson number two. Stay humble and always credit your team. We must remember that we all need one another to create the show we do, so always make sure to make every musician know their value because we are a team and must lift one another up. Lesson number three the most important., find time for your family. Make time for the ones you love. No matter how much we love our job or performing if we don’t watch out we turn around and realize how many of our own celebrations and special moments we lost with our own loved ones we lost while making others happy. That’s beautiful and that’s what we were born to do, but we all deserve to also have our own memories built with our loved ones and sometimes we are so involved with work we miss moments we many never get back. The KEY word is balance.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take my best friend to the beach because that’s where I personally find the most tranquility. Any friend of mine is probably as focused and busy as I am so a walk on the beach would be well needed. For some night life I would suggest Hollywood and Catalinas Jazz Club cause that’s.my favorite music to listen to and Catalinas hosts the best of the best. I would definitely take a drive up to the mountains also cause only in CALI we can do the beach one day and mountains the next. Depending the time of year I would invite for a little snowboarding if possible. In my younger years I would have sure but the salsa dancing scene, but not sure I could even keep up anymore. The number one place I would take my best friend is to the Disneyland Resort because I got to spend 18 years as a performer with Mariachi Divas in Disneyland and Disney Ca Adventure so for me….Disney is home.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my mother. If it wasn’t for her to have taught me that nothing is unreachable if I work hard I would not be the woman I am today. I was lucky enough to be able to call my mother, Shirley Shea, my best friend through the Mariachi Divas adventures and looking forward to many more years and memories of making her proud. I also want to say thank you to the Recording Academy for the honors my music has been recognized for as for me it’s the highest honor any musician could dream.
Yelp: mariachi divas
Other: https://youtube.com/channel/UCyZtIoJWpm07ucsHsLc1_mw @cindysheadiva. (Twitter) https://www.facebook.com/mariachidivasdecindyshea cineyshea_(Instagram)
Cindy Shea Julie Salas Rodriguez Luis Collazo