A distinguished trumpet player, Cindy Shea, is the founder of the Two-Time Grammy Award Winning Mariachi Divas, an all-female ensemble. Learning to play the trumpet at the age of eight, Cindy knew she wanted to be a professional musician early on. Through hard work and determination, she caught the attention of famed Latin Jazz icon, Arturo Sandoval, while studying music education at California State University, Fullerton. Impressed by her talent and musical knowledge, he offered her a full scholarship to study jazz performance at Florida International University as his student. While studying in Miami, Florida, she became immersed in the local music scene which centered on Salsa music and Latin jazz. Through this experience, she gained a deep appreciation and love for Latino culture and music which would serve her well in the future.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, noted Salsa recording artist Yari More invited her to perform with his band. From there she would eventually have the opportunity to frequently accompany the legendary “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz.
By 1999, she was invited to join an all-female, LA-based mariachi, Mariachi Alondras. She instantly fell in love with mariachi music and within that same year decided to form her own group, Mariachi Divas. With Italian and Irish heritage, it is not uncommon for audience members to wonder how Cindy became involved in mariachi music. Understanding that music has no boundaries and is not limited to age, race, or gender, her multicultural mariachi, comprising female musicians of diverse backgrounds, is truly unique.
A year after founding Mariachi Divas, she was invited to join Joan Sebastian’s touring group that performed palenques and jaripeos throughout the United States and Mexico. Known as “El Rey Del Jaripeo” (The King of the Rodeo), Joan Sebastian exposed Cindy to a wide range of regional Mexican music. Proud of her efforts in starting an all-female mariachi group in Los Angeles, CA, he frequently invited Mariachi Divas to accompany his performances over the span of fifteen years. Cindy affectionately called Joan her “Mexican Dad,” and he referred to her as “Guera”. Throughout his long battle with cancer, he continued to perform and write music which impressed and inspired Cindy to continue with her efforts. In 2014, Joan and Mariachi Divas performed what would be their last show together. After the show, they took their last photo together and expressed their friendship for each other. Upon learning of his death in 2015, she knew she would honor his musical career by dedicating her next album to him. It is with great pride that Mariachi Divas honored both Joan Sebastian and arranger Rigoberto Alfaro on their twelfth album, which marked their seventeenth anniversary which the Divas were nominated for a Grammy in 2017 making this their 9th Grammy nomination in total.
RIP Joan Sebastian (1951-2015).