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    Mariachi Nuevo Mexico a big hit for the 44th Army Band

    Mariachi Nuevo Mexico a big hit for the 44th Army Band

    Photo By 1st Lt. Anna Doo | New Mexico National Guard's 44th Army Band performed a special Fourth of July concert...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Anna Doo 

    200th Public Affairs Detachment

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - What began as a Citizen-Soldier jam session grew into what is said to be the first-ever U.S. Military Mariachi Group. Members of the 44th Army Band of the New Mexico Army National Guard have been playing the music of the local culture as citizens for decades, and have now formed a Musical Support Team comprised of nine Soldiers who play the Mexican folk style of music. The specialized group is called Mariachi Nuevo Mexico.

    Other military bands also have specialty teams pouring out the sounds localized to their unit’s surroundings. The U.S. Virgin Islands boasts a military steel drum ensemble. In Puerto Rico, Soldier’s in uniform play Salsa music. The lively sounds of Dixie can be heard by service members in Georgia. But nowhere else in our Armed Forces is an official Mariachi band except in New Mexico.

    Sgt. 1st Class Fidel Archuleta, non-commissioned officer in charge of Mariachi Nuevo Mexico said the creation of the specialty team has been years in the making. The 44th had been lacking the musical instruments and personnel with the additional skills needed to play the instruments and style of this genre until the fall of 2012. Three members of the Mariachi band hold years of experience performing the folk music with civilian groups, and when they began playing one drill weekend additional members of the larger concert band became interested in the possibility of sharing the local sounds with a broader audience.

    “It started by messing around,” Archuleta said. “After hours of just playing around, we knew we needed to start the group.”

    Sgt. Horacio Favela, guitar; Sgt. Mario Montoya, trumpet; and Spc. Kevin Vigil, guitarron, were excited to share their mariachi expertise with Spc. Jye Johson, marimba; Spc. Rebekah Harris, violin; Spc. Orlando Guerrero, flute; Sgt. Claranita Williams, trumpet; Spc. Elly Adams, trumpet and Archuleta who plays guitar. The members must be well versed in their primary instrument found on the unit’s list of approved equipment, and oftentimes a secondary instrument more specific to the Mariachi sounds.

    Military bands are required to play ceremonial tunes such as each service’s official song, our nations’ most recognizable tunes and other music traditionally associated with military bands. But more and more, while the Army’s School of Music is maintaining these popular ensembles, the focus is shifting to small groups or Musical Support Teams. In addition to Mariachi Nuevo Mexico, the 44th Army Band boasts a brass ensemble named “Cabanatuan Cats”; the “Chili Choppers” dinner/rock combo; a quartet of saxophones known as “Darn Saxy”; the bag piper called “El Gaitero”; a clarinet quartet named “Reed Runners”; the “Rough Riders” brass quintet and “Zia Winds” the woodwind. The increased mobility of the smaller groups allows for more concerts within the surrounding communities by the Guardsmen as well as different types of music available for events.

    While some of the members of Mariachi Nuevo Mexico are learning this genre of music at the same time they learn how to play it, Favela has a lifetime of experience he wants to share. He hopes to increase the exposure of the band as a whole through the traditional sounds and culture of Mariachi music.

    “I’d like to revive an interest in Army bands here in N.M. and nationwide,” he said. “We really are a melting pot in the Army and our music should reflect that.”

    Harris, who plays violin in the group as well as sings some of the pieces, said she has faced some challenges with learning the style of music and being able to sing in Spanish. Overall however, she said she has truly enjoyed the experience.

    “The [Mariachi group] is so much fun, we have a great time,” Harris said. “My great grandfather sang and played violin in a Mariachi group but I had no other background in it.”

    The Mariachi band, along with the full ceremonial ensemble including brass and saxophone specialty teams, culminated a two-week annual training that spanned the southern part of N.M. with a concert on the Fourth of July in Albuquerque. Playing locally familiar Mariachi tunes to the audience of well over one hundred guests, the instrumental and vocal talents of the members truly shined. They played so well that a requested encore was granted to the audience who had been clapping and singing along to the songs.

    Upcoming engagements for the inaugural Army Mariachi band are the annual state fair, the Mariachi Conference in Las Cruces, N.M., and some teaching opportunities at a local school. These musicians truly embody the title of Citizen-Soldier, sharing their civilian expertise with their fellow Service members and giving back to the community through the music.



    Date Taken: 07.04.2013
    Date Posted: 09.03.2013 13:30
    Story ID: 113008

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