The Front Row: Educating Through Mariachi Music

Apr 26, 2018

The Vernacular Music Center at Texas Tech University School of Music is home to the Mariachi Ensemble. They’re collaborating with Lubbock High School to put on a performance this Friday night. Dr. Lauryn Salazar, professor of ethnomusicology, and Greg Cavasos, director of the mariachi program for all of LIUSD.

Dr. Salazar, you direct the mariachi program here at Tech. Tell us a little bit about what that is and your involvement with it.

The Mariachi Ensemble is one of the ensembles of the Vernacular Music Center. The Vernacular Music Center hosts a couple of other ensembles. So, the Mariachi Ensemble, here at Texas Tech—I believe there have been several incarnations. My understanding is that in the late 90s it was a student group and then it kind of went defunct. Around 2010, it began as a student group again and then one of my former colleagues, started a world music ensemble. They did a term of mariachi. The mariachi became incredibly popular and then the ensemble was born as a class for credit.

Dr. Lauryn Salazar and Gregory Cavazos.
Credit Kaysie Ellingson

Here we are in 2018, and you’re now directing the ensemble as a full program.

Yes, and in fact it’s been growing and it’s been expanding, which has been very exciting. Probably, what I would say has been the most exciting elements about this ensemble is that I’m able to fuse it with my research interests in that one of the things that I look at is the institutionalization of the genre itself, because one of the things that’s been happening with mariachi, since the 1960s, is that basically what happened with jazz sixty years ago, is happening with mariachi today.

As you have more and more academic programs springing up, especially in school districts in areas where you have a large Latino Diaspora. So, this program here, what I’m able to do is really look at how this aspect of Mexican, Mexican-American culture, can really be used to empower the community. By that, what I mean here, is looking at Mariachi as a pathway to higher education, especially for high school students…

You have a concert coming up Friday night. Tell us about it.

We do. So, this Friday night is our annual spring concert, which will be at Hemmle Hall at 8 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. I encourage everyone to bring their families. Bring everyone.

Listen to the full interview at the top of the article.