The guitars are tuned, the trumpets ready and the gold buttons of the Mariachi Aztlán’s uniforms have been shined to perfectly catch the glow of the stage lights– it’s showtime. All of the summer’s constant practicing is going to be put to the test with the group’s first concert of the semester, to be held at the UTPA Field House Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.
The UTPA Mariachi Aztlán is a group of 15 men and women who use guitars and trumpets to play Mexican music. According to Director Francisco Loera, they play traditional Mexican folk songs along with slow ones called Posadas (songs showing someone trying to find refuge, like Mary and Jesus in the Bible) and rancheros (traditional folk music that originated in Jalisco Mexico).
The concert will have everything from Mariachi Aztlán to the University’s Luz de Luna Folkloric dancers (traditional Mexican dancers). It will include musical styles from various regions of Mexico, such as La Huasteca, Veracruz and Jalisco.
The Folkloric dancers perform a traditional Mexican dance, wearing colorful skirts and using exaggerated movements to tell a story through music.
“We have a lot of elements,” said 30-year-old vocalist and guitarist Adolfo Estrada. “We accompany the dancers…and there’s different costumes that accompany the different regions and cultures of Mexico.”
Along with the award-winning Mariachi and the dancers, there will also be a storyteller to guide the audience and paint a picture of how this music evolved over time.
“(The concert) is a hybrid from Mexican traditions to North American traditions and the Mexican-American crossover of both,” said Fernando Mendoza, a 33-year-old violist for the group.
The audience will be able to hear a mixture of traditional Mariachi songs along with some featuring a Mexican spin on North American Christmas tunes. Estrada went onto say that there will be some American Christmas music, such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland” to name a few.
The two-hour concert has been in preparation since August, “slowly pulling everything together,” according to Estrada.
“We don’t want to be candil de la calle oscuridad de su casa, meaning we don’t want to be the light of the street, sharing so much outside of the community while forgetting about our own community. We want to thank them for all the support they gave us,” said Mendoza, a graduate student getting a master’s in public administration.
The Mariachi Aztlán has been recruited to play with many highly recognized music houses. Including the Houston Grand Opera in the premiere of the world’s first Mariachi opera to showcasing their talents with the Valley Symphony Orchestra.
The group has multiple awards and prestigious recognitions. In 2010, they went to play in the White House for President Barack Obama and later that year won first place at the national competition Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque. In 2011, they took home first place for the second consecutive year in a row at the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque and were invited to perform at the Hollywood Bowl later that year.
“My goal as a musician is to actually transmit some sort of emotion, and actually make it art,” Estrada, a Mexican-American studies major said. “And I want the audience to leave with a sense of having experienced something.”
Whether in Mexico or the States, the Mariachi Aztlán employs traditional folk songs to connect with the audience.
“In this concert, they will break any stereotypes,” that one has about Mariachi’s and their music, Loera said. “You will get the full effect of how the Mariachi should sound.”
This Friday night at the concert, students with a valid ID get in for free and general admission costs $10 at the door.
Beyond these concerts the Mariachi Aztlán will hold six concerts in December and four in January along with accompanying the Chicago Lyric Opera in April for a concert series called “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (To Cross the Moon’s Face).