Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea gets fifth Grammy nomination

Musica is Cindy Shea’s business. And business is great.

The Hacienda Heights resident celebrated her fifth Grammy nomination on Wednesday at Downtown Disney.

Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea was once again nominated for Best Regional Mexican Music Album for its ninth album, “A Mi Manera.”

“I heard about it while riding in our car and I just started screaming,” Shea recalled. “It’s so exciting to be nominated again with my husband Alberto Jimenez Maeda, who does all our musical arrangements.”

Mariachi Divas won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Regional Mexican Music Album. The shiny gold gramophone sits in Shea’s Hacienda Heights home.

The blonde musician was all smiles as the female mariachi band gathered by the ESPN Zone to thank their fans and families.

“With their fifth nomination, they have earned more nominations than any other mariachi band,” said Stan Freese, talent booking director for Disney Resorts.

“Our girls from Los Angeles have gotten more nominations than the rest of the world’s mariachi bands combined,” Freese said.

The talent director booked the Mariachi Divas more than a decade ago to play at California Adventure.

“They have been great ambassadors for the Disney Resorts. They recently headlined our new Viva Navidad celebration for the holidays,” Freese said.

Since then, Shea and the Mariachi Divas have become the official mariachi band for Disney. They perform weekends in the winter and daily in the summer.

When asked why he chose a female mariachi band over a more traditional male ensemble, Freese replied.

“I try to give our guests something they won’t see anywhere else. The Mariachi Divas are great performers,” he said.

Which doesn’t mean it has been easy for Shea and other women musicians in a largely male-dominated mariachi music industry. She has fought stereotypes and prejudice all her life.

“I told my parents when I was only 8 years old that I wanted to become one of the world’s best trumpet players,” she explained in an earlier interview.

Her parents agreed to pay for trumpet lessons once a week, but Shea realized that she would need much more training.

“I wanted to study with the best studio musicians in Los Angeles, so when I was good enough, I started giving lessons to other kids,” she recalled.

Shea used that money to learn from great players like Ron Stout, Wayne Bergeron and Bobby Shew.

“When the dentist told my parents I needed braces, I refused because I wanted to keep playing,” Shea said with her brilliant, if imperfect, smile.

“When I joined the marching band at Los Altos High School, the boys didn’t want me to play the trumpet. They said it was a ‘macho’ instrument,” Shea remembered.

But the young musician not only played the trumpet, she performed so well that she unseated a senior as first chair.

“At one football game, the guys filled my mouthpiece with mud when I wasn’t looking. They thought it was hilarious when I marched out and tried to play,” Shea said. “They just made me stronger and more determined. There were so many times I could have given up, but didn’t.”

Fortunately, music director Don Gunderson was very supportive. The Los Altos teacher nurtured the young performer.

“He pushed me so hard that I got much better. He helped me pursue outside auditions.”

Later, Shea fell in love with jazz, enjoying the challenge of this American musical style. The Los Altos graduate studied music education at Cal State Fullerton, where she studied under trumpet great Bill Bing and thought about becoming a music teacher.

“I also had the chance to play for Latin jazz icon Arturo Sandoval,” Shea said.

Sandoval was so impressed, he offered Shea a full scholarship to Florida International University. The Hacienda Heights native moved to Miami to study under the Cuban jazz master.

When she returned to Southern California, Shea became a fixture in Los Angeles’ salsa scene.

The trumpeter performed in Yari More’s band and accompanied stars like Celia Cruz, the “Queen of Salsa,” at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

Another opportunity beckoned when Mariachi Las Alondras, a female band, was looking for a trumpeter.

“I had to learn a new style mostly by ear. I also learned to transpose music on the spot,” she said.

When the female band broke up, Shea decided to start her own mariachi group. The Mariachi Divas was born in 1999.

“With my experience in many music genres, I wanted to create my own style,” Shea said.

Soon the Divas were performing their own interpretations of mariachi standards. Shea became proud of her band’s multicultural, innovative sound.

But right now, Shea and her musicians are looking forward to Sunday night.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope they win another Grammy,” Freese said.

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