CHICAGO - An ensemble of Chicago students with a passion for Mariachi have a debut album that is getting national attention.
"Mariachi dates back to the 19th century in Mexico it was a peasant's music. It was music that came from working in the fields and as farmers it was the people's music. It's evolved into probably the closest for of classical music in Latin America," said Cesar Maldonado.
Maldonado is the president and founder Mariachi Heritage Foundation. His passion for Hispanic culture, community and music gave him the idea to create Mariachi Herencia de Mexico.
"I've always had a passion for serving my community. I came from Brighton Park from Mexican parents that worked in factories and got lucky enough to go to college and make something of myself. Coming back to the community I wanted to do something that would serve the community in a different way," said Maldonado.
In 2013, the Mariachi Heritage Foundation started a school program that serves about 2,100 students and eight schools across the city.
A year and half into the school program, the foundation decided to hold an audition for Mariachi Herencia de Mexico. Accepting 90 students and about 20 of those students were placed at the advanced level.
This year those students created an album.
"We hit No. 2 on Billboard Latin music, iTunes Latin Music which for Mariachi in itself is a huge accomplishment. Mariachi music normally categorizes or ranks in the Mexican regional category and for these kids to come out and rank with the big artists in the Latin pop category was enormous," said Maldonado.
An accomplishment that stunned students like Marco Villela.
"Whoa, that was crazy that was mind blowing," said Villela. "When I told my parents they were all proud and everything but I still remembered that I have to keep working to make it even better."
Melanie Juarez is a singer and guitarist and expressed the same dedication and passion as the reason for the group's success.
"It's a lot of time a lot work. I need to make sure I get my education first because it's student musician. Student goes first, I must do all my work first them put music aside. If I don't have time to practice then I'll catch up. It's hard but I'll get through it," Juarez said.
Students will take their talent and hard work to Washington D.C. this weekend for a performance at the Kennedy Center. Giving the students an experience that goes beyond music.
"We're telling them to be Mexican American is a good thing, a great thing and diversity is a great thing and it's just a great value to teach these students," said Maldonado.
Next week, students will find out if their album will receive a Latin Grammy nomination.
They also have several upcoming performances in Chicago:
-September 22: Hispanic Heritage Night/Chicago White Sox Guaranteed Rate Field
-November 4: Auditorium Theater in Chicago, Pedro Fernandez featuring Mariachi Herencia de Mexico