After the Latin Grammy-nominated student musicians of Mariachi Herencia de México hit the stage at the Gallo Center for the Arts on March 19 in Modesto; they will be hitting the music studios to work on their third mariachi album.
“We are actually hitting the studio in two weeks right after this tour, this California tour. We hit the studios to record the group’s third album which will be release in late May,” said César Maldonado, director and founder of the education program that cultivate mariachi music in these youths.
And this month Mariachi Herencia de México is celebrating its third-year anniversary since it started back in March 2016 when almost 400 youth came to audition to be part of the group.
Maldonado said that from those auditions 90 youth were place in Mariachi Herencia de México in different levels.
“The group that tours and records albums, and is the Grammy-nominated group is the main group which is comprised of 18 students. Their ages ranges from 12 years old to 18 years old,” Maldonado said. “They all come from immigrant families in Chicago, Mexican-American neighborhoods in the Chicago area.”
Many could say Herencia de México has done so much in a short period of time, but Maldonado attributes it to the student hard work and their passion for mariachi.
“When we first started the group, I’ve never imagine we could achieved so much,” Maldonado said, adding that he learned hard work from his parents who were blue collar factory workers. “And this group has done that, they work really hard and because of their talent every project we take on it gets noticed more and more,” Maldonado said.
The group is breaking all kinds of norms in pushing mariachi music.
Their first album ‘Nuestra Herencia’ (Our Heritage) was released in 2017 and received a Latin Grammy nomination. Their second self-released album, ‘Herencia De La Tierra Mía’ (The Heritage Of My Land) is a 14-track disc featuring guest vocals of veteran mariachi singer Aida Cuevas and folkloric/fusion artist Lila Downs and debuted number 2 in the Billboard charts.
“We are hoping that this third album, which is going to be probably their best album yet, break more barriers,” said Maldonado, adding that the third album doesn’t have a name yet.
Maldonado said the group is working with Rigoberto Alfaro, “one of the best and most legendary mariachi music arrangers and musical directors from México City,” who would be the musical director for their next album.
“The album is going to be recorded in both México City and Chicago,” Maldonado said adding the group is going to record 18 tracks but will probably use 13 or 14 in the album.
“This project is going to be pretty cool because we are doing a tribute to the Golden Age of Mexican cinema through mariachi,” Maldonado said, adding that all the music in this upcoming album come from the big movies from that era. “It’s really a cool era.”
Maldonado said many of those movies could be considered musical because of there were so much music involve in the scrip and the movie.
He said the students spend the last two or three months of last year just exploring movies.
“Watching movies, getting inspired by so many movies and they all pick about 60 songs from movies and we narrow them down to 18,” Maldonado said. “And we are really excited to hit the studio and start recording. It’s going to be a very special project.”
Without giving out the names of the songs that would be featured in the new album, Maldonado some of the song are by some of the big names in that era like José Alfredo Jiménez, Miguel Aceves Mejía, Lola Beltrán, Lucha Villa, Tintán, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Amalia Mendoza.
“We need to bring back the essence and spirit of mariachi music. Mariachi music is supposes to make you feel all kinds of emotions, and in these movies, that is exactly what it did. So we are trying to bring back that essence,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado said his students “love the music, love performing it, love learning it, being challenge by the music itself as well.”
“Every album that we record, we challenge them, we push their musical level for all the kids,” Maldonado said, adding that students are already quite accomplished musicians but there is always room for growth.
He said they make sure that each album challenge the students musically as well.
Maldonado said because the member of the mariachi group are student and “obviously in school, what we do we tour on the weekends. The group travels a lot throughout the school year, but we leave Friday and come back Sunday or Monday to make it back to school.”
For their Modesto performance on Tuesday, March 19, the group will have a long weekend, however, Maldonado said “one of the things that we stress, is that they are student musicians. Student comes first and they all have to be in good standing academically to be part of the group and to tour and record and to do all the amazing things that we do.”
Maldonado said the Mariachi Heritage Foundation provides a lot of support to the students in terms of academic support for example ACT and SAT pre classes on the weekend for those students who are in high school and get them prepare for those tests.
“We do what we can to support them academically. The schools understand that this is kind of an extraordinary experience that they are living,” Maldonado said. “So they are extremely supportive in letting them take field trip days in travel and tour and all the kids in the group are just outstanding. They do an amazing job in academics and they do an amazing job with music. They are just extremely motivated. Their passion for this music drives them.”
But before they travel back to Chicago and México City, Maldonado said they look forward to bring their passion to Modesto.
“It’s going to be a really cool show, a very energetic,” Maldonado said, adding that people would be able to young people perform from rancheras, paso doble, classical, etc. “Show them how amazing this music is and more importantly they are going to see how talented are Mexican-American youth in our country and in our neighborhoods.”
Mariachi Herencia de México
- Tuesday, March 19 at 7 p.m.
- Gallo Center for the Arts’ Mary Stuart Rogers Theater
- Tickets: $19, $39, $49
- (209) 338-2100