Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Swarhmore’s lectures can provide more than just relevant, exciting updates on certain fields of study—apparently they can create music as well.
Indirectly, maybe. After Russell Rodriguez, a lecturer at University of California Santa Cruz, came to the College as a part of the Latin American Studies Speakers Series, senior Samuel Garcia remembered his violin.
“I used to play in a mariachi band back home. There was a bunch of kids back at a church. This guy decided, let’s have these kids do something instead of just hanging around…he said, you know what, why don’t you guys learn how to play instruments?”
Garcia, however, was the only one with previous mariachi experience. He has played violin in mariachi for about five years.
“So one way or another I find a way to communicate, whether it’s you know—this is what you do on guitars, this is what you do on the trumpets, this is what you do on this and this, this is how we start, this is how we end.”
This did not prove to be much trouble as the other members began to pick up the music with Garcia’s aid.
“But I mean, it still takes a little while. We learn most of our songs—well, there’s not too much sheet music for what is mariachi music. Most of it is learned by ear or somebody teaches you who knows it, so most of our songs we’ve learned have been pretty much by ear,” said Garcia.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, mariachi is a style of traditional Mexican music often played at formal events. It has a rich history behind it—so much so that it can become a topic of academic interest. Rodriguez’s Ph.D. dissertation, for example, analyzes mariachi music in the United States.
But it is inherently cultural, and to the members of the band, a unique form of recreation.
“We know a few [songs] right now. It’s not too bad, actually. It’s a nice, fun thing to do every weekend,” Garcia said.
The band adheres to mariachi tradition enough to have members of the band who play vihuela and guitarron. Don’t expect outfits, however—the cheapest run for about $350.
So far the band, with its six string players, two trumpet players, and two vocalists, has played for a few audiences before. Recently they performed at a birthday party. In the past they have performed at a restaurant, a professor’s house, and at Haverford for Mexican Independence Day.
“People invite us, and then if we’re available we’d be glad to play at events,” said Garcia.
For those who are interested, a second round of auditions for the band will be held on Friday, September 28th at 8:00pm in the Lang Concert Hall.
To contact Swarthmore’s only mariachi band for events, email sgarcia2 for more information on pricing and scheduling.