Mariachi Herencia de México
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Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, an Ensemble of Students from Chicago's
Scores a Surprise Hit with their Debut CD, Nuestra Herencia;
CD Debuts at #2 on iTunes Latin Chart, Showcasing Growth of Mariachi
Music in the U.S.
Produced by Top L.A. Mariachi Musician
, CD Features Guest Vocalists from Renowned Bands Mariachi Vargas de
Tecalitlán, Los Camperos, Sol de
, and Reyna de Los
Project Represents Success of Mariachi Music Programs in
Financially-Strapped Public Schools,
Where They are Filling a Critical Gap in Arts Education
2017 Concerts Include Debuts at The Kennedy Center in D.C. and Joe's
Pub in NYC
Mariachi Herencia de
- Summer 2017 Tour
Sat June 24 Chicago, IL Auditorium Theatre
Sun June 25 Chicago, IL Chicago Mariachi Festival / Millennium Park
Sat July 1 Highland Park, IL Ravinia Festival (with Lila Downs)
Fri July 7 Orlando, FL Disney World / Epcot
Fri August 4 Los Angeles, CA La Fonda de Los Camperos
Sun August 5 Santa Barbara, CA Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival /
Wed August 9 Chicago, IL Millennium Park (with Mariachi Cobre)
Sun August 20 New York, NY Joe's Pub
Fri-Mon Aug 25- Sept 3 Guadalajara, MX Guadalajara International
Sat Sept 16 Washington, DC Kennedy Center / Millennium Stage (FREE)
[June 1, 2017] Mariachi Herencia de México, an ensemble of
students from Chicago's immigrant barrios, has scored a surprise hit with
their debut album of traditional Mexican music.Nuestra Herencia (Our Heritage) ranked No. 2 in its first week on iTunes' Latin chart, defying a
music industry trend and pointing to a revival in recorded mariachi music.
The album, released on May 16, is believed to be the first major
mariachi recording released in the U.S. by a student ensemble
, with members ranging in age from 11 to 18. It was produced and arranged
by L.A.'s mariachi master, Jose Hernández, who calls the
project "one of those labor of love things." Much of that love and labor
came from César Maldonado, an investment banker whose most important
startup was a non-profit foundation that promoted mariachi music
instruction in Chicago public schools, creating a classroom incubator for
the talent on this album.
"It's really nice, and very refreshing, to see kids that age who have so
much love and respect for mariachi music," says Hernández, best known as
founder of Mariachi Sol de México, one of the top
mariachis in Los Angeles.
In a historic collaboration, the album features guest musicians from some
of the most respected mariachi groups from both sides of the border. It
includes vocal contributions, recorded in Mexico, by members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a revered institution in
the genre. In addition, members of three top Los Angeles ensembles -
, Sol de México
, and the all-female group
Reyna de Los Ángeles
- recorded guest vocals on the CD.
The matching of novice performers with professionals was no gimmick. It was
meant to send a signal that this group of students had the talent, training
and bravado to hold their own with the best in the world.
"My job was to write the music at the level that the kids would be able to
handle," says Hernández, who shuttled between studios in Chicago and Los
Angeles. "But I wanted to do it at a level where they felt challenged 100
percent of the time."
The release of the album, featuring 11 traditional mariachi tracks, comes
paradoxically at a time when the genre had been waning. With more than 100
years of history, mariachi music had become an iconic art form,
representing Mexican culture throughout the world, via records, movies and
spectacular live performances by superstar singers. But the lack of major
new artists in the field, coupled with the emergence of other popular folk
styles, especially banda and corridos, mariachi music
lost its commercial appeal for the recording industry. In fact, last year
the Latin GRAMMYs did not offer an award for "Best
Ranchero / Mariachi Album" due to an insufficient number of entries in the
was released in time to qualify for this year's Latin GRAMMY competition
and features tribute medleys to two of the genre's greatest stars: Juan Gabriel and José Alfredo Jiménez.
For the creators and members of Mariachi Herencia de México, the passion
for mariachi music has never faltered. The group's success represents the
strength of the colorful folk style as a grassroots movement, very much
alive in regional festivals and especially in the schools.
"I tell people that mariachi is a sleeping giant in this country," says
Hernández, who also operates music education programs through his
L.A.-based Mariachi Heritage Society. "A lot of people in the mainstream
don't realize how big mariachi has become in the schools. This album might
open people's eyes to what's happening to mariachi education in this
country. It's really growing."
Sadly, says Hernández, there is no comparable program for mariachi
instruction in Mexico, the birthplace of the genre. In the U.S., by
contrast, mariachi instruction is gaining a foothold in places where it had
never been before, from Iowa to Tennessee and Wisconsin.
In Chicago, Mariachi Herencia de
was purely a barrio creation
The band emerged from a plucky non-profit, the Mariachi Heritage Foundation, that pushed a cultural
agenda in the schools. It was started in 2013 by a determined investment banker
whose entrepreneurial spirit was aimed at doing good for his old
neighborhood. Cé sar Maldonado, 33, was born and raised in the blue-collar,
predominantly Latino community of Brighton Park on the south side of
Chicago. At the time, he recalls, the public schools he attended had no
formal arts or music instruction.
"I believe in the impact of the arts, especially when the art form is
relevant. And this art form is completely relevant to Chicago's growing
Mexican and Mexican American communities," says Maldonado.
Maldonado, who still lives in his old neighborhood, decided to make good on
his convictions. With the blessing of Chicago's arts-focused leader, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and support from a network of local
businesses, a program of mariachi music instruction was launched, initially
in five public schools. These were among the schools identified by a city
study as most lacking in arts resources. And that included Maldonado's alma
mater, Davis Elementary.
The program, part of the regular school curriculum, has now expanded to
eight schools and enrolls 2,100 students, who learn music theory and
performance in the mariachi style. The ensemble Mariachi Herencia de México
was created for students who showed the most talent and promise, and
enrollment for the group was opened citywide.
For trumpeter Marco Villela, 14, who joined the mariachi
last year at the urging of his mother, the experience has been a cultural
"It's something that changed my life," says Villela. "It really taught me
how to look at music differently, and that there are more things out there
than just classical and jazz."
The big bonus was performing on a professional recording.
"I feel proud of the work, that we've come all this way to see how good it
sounds," says Villela. "It feels wonderful."
The group performs in major mariachi festivals, including upcoming events
in Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Guadalajara, Mexico's
mariachi capital. Maldonado says the band recently signed with IMG Artists, the New York agency that also represents
international stars Aida Cuevas, Eddie Palmieri, and Diego El Cigala.
The aim is more exposure, so the world can see what these young musicians
have to offer.
Debut concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Joe's Pub
in New York City
are now on the schedule.
"I want people across the country to hear about these kids," says
Maldonado. "These are kids from some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods,
most of them first generation Mexican American, and all of a sudden, they
enroll in this mariachi program and awaken a talent they never knew they
had. And they become good enough to record something like this."