Growing up in San Antonio, Daniel Flores fell in love with the unique sound of the Mexican folk music played by mariachi bands. When he came to the Midwest to attend Northwestern University, Flores knew he wanted to bring the mariachi musical spirit with him.
Flores, a junior in the School of Communication, had played trumpet in an independent mariachi band throughout high school. After receiving some mariachi sheet music from a teacher back home, Flores set out to recruit fellow mariachi enthusiasts at Northwestern.
“I knew two guitar players, but I had to find a singer and a violin player, so it was a lot of word of mouth around the dorms,” Flores said.
Thus was born Mariachi Northwestern, which is said to be Northwestern’s first ever student mariachi band.
By posting videos on YouTube and the group’s Facebook page, the troupe has grown in both number and campus visibility. As word of its existence spread, the band received an increasing number of requests for surprise Valentine’s Day performances, birthday greetings and serenades at sororities and fraternities.
“People love us,” said Carlos Reyes, a guitarist and sophomore in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Even people who have never listened to mariachi music before just love listening to it. Even if they don’t understand it, they can just jam along to it, and it always brings a smile to their face.”
Flores said the group has at least two students for each instrument, which allows them to honor as many requests as possible, assembling available players when performances intersect with class schedules.
Sharing a personal cultural tradition with the Northwestern community has been incredibly rewarding, Flores said. Looking beyond campus, he said he hopes the group can reach out to the large Latino populations in Evanston and the Chicago area as well, perhaps even providing music education opportunities to youth interested in mariachi.
The group already has more than 10 songs in their repertoire and continues to learn more traditional mariachi melodies as well as mariachi-style covers of popular mainstream songs.
But there’s one song Flores said he would like to play most of all.
“We’d love to play the Northwestern Alma Mater at Commencement, mariachi-style,” he said.