UNT mariachi group receives grant to encourage expansion of the program

Article Originally Published by Maria Lawson on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by on North Texas Daily

Surrounded by instruments, UNT mariachi group members gather Monday evenings to rehearse their music. The mariachi program, which was founded in 2003, has allowed UNT students to dive into a genre of music that is different from what campus programs traditionally offer. 

Last month, the mariachi program was awarded two grants, one from the Rea Charitable Trust for $20,000 and another from a UNT alumnus for $12,500. These grants will allow the program to grow and have a greater presence on campus. 

The mariachi group caters to individuals of all musical levels and backgrounds so everyone can appreciate the art of mariachi music. 

“[The group] seemed pretty welcoming to beginners,” media arts sophomore Juan Flores said. “They said that you didn’t need prior musical classes. I’m not a music major, but I have played instruments for years, so I thought it would be a good way to expand my musical experience.”

Growing up surrounded by the genre impacted Flores’ decision to become involved in the group.

“It’s just one of those genres that I’ve grown up around, but I didn’t really know a lot of people around the area that could have taught me,” Flores said. “I didn’t know a way into learning to play. I’ve grown up listening to it and thought it would be good to learn to play it.”

Music education senior Ramiro Salazar said mariachi is a unique and versatile music style that is centered around Mexican culture.

“The instrumentation is so different from other styles of music, and when you hear it, you can tell it’s mariachi,” Salazar said. “I think what makes mariachi different from other styles is the culture behind it as well. Mariachi is played at parties, funerals and weddings — the music can be so uplifting and fun but it can also be sad and slow.”

Because the mariachi group has become larger at UNT, the grants given to them will help cover costs of expanding the program.

“We just got a grant to purchase instruments, supplies and uniforms,” said Lizeth Domínguez, mariachi group director and Arlington resident.

The grant will allow the program to have more funding to purchase things that are important to enhancing the mariachi music experience. 

“The large grant will help us purchase traditional trajes to properly represent our genre,” music education junior Stefanie Herrera said. “Trajes are traditional Mexican mariachi suits, and so far we don’t have enough trajes to perform in. Trajes will help us also present our ensemble better and we will now look like a mariachi [group].”

Aside from material goods, the grants that the mariachi group received is expected to help with membership in the group, which is currently comprised of 8-12 members. 

“[The grant] will allow us to get new people into the program and hopefully help in retention,” Flores said. “The plan is to get us more instruments and stuff like that, and hopefully we can expand to a bigger group.”

The mariachi group performs at different events around UNT’s campus and the local community, including events such as Día De Los Muertos. To prepare for performances, the group rehearses weekly, and they focus on both the actual music and what went in to create it. 

“A typical day consists of going over music we’re learning and discussing the cultural components of it — the history, and the culture behind the pieces that we’re learning,” Domínguez said. 

Now that the mariachi program has the grants, they hope they will be able to have a larger impact in the local music scene. 

“I would like for us to perform at more events around campus and the surrounding area,” Domínguez said. “I would also like to do some recruitment trips to get more people coming up to UNT to join mariachi.”

Domínguez said this group provides members with more than just music education. 

“Students can gain a better understanding of Mexican culture and how it’s grown,” Domínguez said.

Featured Image: Courtesy Juan Flores

Source: North Texas Daily