Publishers Note: The Pioneer Review and its staff would like to extend its condolences to the friends and family of Mario Olivares who passed away on the morning of August 15, 2016. Mario touched our musical soul . With this feature, we pay tribute to a local legend and what came to be his last performance.
It was a packed house at Rocco’s Banquet Center, as lifetime friends, family, and acquaintances listened to the world-class Latin-Spanish Instrumental Guitarist, Mario Olivares perform for his hometown.
On Friday, August 12, concert attendees enjoyed the radio nostalgia as Olivares performed an instrumental set that included: Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven, and Dust in the Wind. Joining Olivares was Guitarist Roger Espinoza, and Grammy winning percussionist, Tommy Aros.
“It was an amazing evening,” said Carolee Ornbaun proprietor of Rocco’s Bar and Grill, and host for the evening. “He played beautiful music, it was an enjoyable time reconnecting with him.”
When Olivares plucked the first chords from his guitar you could hear the bold love for the romantic sound of nylon-strung acoustic guitar. Those chords translated into beautiful melodies that reminds the listener that life itself, is often beautiful.
“Coming from such a small town and becoming such a renowned guitarist is impressive; but to hear his music is beyond and above impressive,” said Barbara Gomes who attended the Friday performance.
Gomes commented that she also attended a performance in Sacramento.
“When he plays the guitar, you could feel it, you could internalize it,” she said, “It touches your soul.”
Mario grew up in the small town of Grimes where he attended the Pierce Unified School District. His Spanish rooted music was part of the cultural landscape and his music career began when he was just 11 years old.
“40 years ago, I’d been playing guitar for eight years. I would play some rock and roll, and some Spanish,” said Olivares during his concert. “I began listening to vinyl records and gravitated to the classical guitar.”
Living in an era before computers, the internet, and YouTube, Olivares for the most part was self-taught.
“I wanted to play classic guitar pieces and found out there was a classical guitarist in Yuba City,” said Olivares.
That guitarist was David Wantanabe.
“I learned in two years what most people learn in a lifetime,” said Olivares.
Though wanting to learn more and play guitar for a living, his father talked him into settling down and working a career job. Having respect for his fathers wishes, Mario went on to work with Kaiser Permanente in outpatient pharmacy services, and received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of California, San Francisco in 1979.
As Mario worked diligently in his professional career, and gave numerous inspirational and motivational presentations his music still called him. In 2012, he transitioned to pursue his musical passion.
“I know in my heart, I would not be playing what I am playing, doing what I do, if it weren’t for David,” said Olivares.
Olivares commented that he reached out to Wantanabe’s family on Facebook, whom he’d never met. They attended the concert Friday as Olivares payed tribute to Wantanabe,
“Meeting Mario and hearing him perform last night was a blessing and the tribute he paid to my dad, well, let’s say it just left me in joyful tears,” said Aime Wantanabe in a Facebook Post to Olivares, “Mario reminded me of the life changing impact that one individual can have on another. That we all have the ability to touch lives and inspire greatness; both by our examples and investment of time in helping others realize their potential and pursue their dreams.”
Olivares’ music has been heard across the nation and abroad.
In 2013, Olivares was a special guest at the XVI International World of Guitar Festival in Kaluga, Russia. He also received national recognition and airplay with “The Boomer Show with Brian Christie” where he was the band leader for five seasons. His music has been heard on several “reality television” programs and his recordings have been marketed to an audience abroad over the past two decades.” <