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Texas music teacher uses mariachi to help students connect with Mexican culture


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Amna Nawaz: Though its roots are in Mexico, mariachi music has become widely popular across the United States as well.

Music teacher Susana Diaz-Lopez shares her insights on its growth and impact in the Austin area.

Our Student Reporting Labs Academy fellows produced this story as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Susana Diaz-Lopez, Mariachi Music Instructor: Mariachi music is folk music.


Susana Diaz-Lopez: You got to stand up, feet apart, strong confident.

I think mariachi music in Austin is very small. I think it's growing, but I think it still has a long ways to go. I noticed that our population at our school was mostly Hispanic and Latino students, who were literally -- some of them are immigrants that come from all over. Sometimes, they don't fit in.

We have always tried to make them feel comfortable and welcome and just connected to some type of program, even if it's an after-school program.

April Saldana, Mariachi Band Member: I knew more about mariachi by just family culture, me going to Mexico listening to mariachi music all the time, my mom cleaning with Mexican music, mariachi music all the time, waking up, mariachi music, going to sleep, mariachi music.

It's something that's going to always be a core memory for me.

Susana Diaz-Lopez: I started teaching mariachi at Soundwaves. I learned more about what they do and the program that they have had so far. And so that just spiked an interest, so I decided to go for it.

I do have some students that do not have a background in mariachi at all or that don't speak the language, and they still sing. They learn by just listening to the songs.

Adan Sanchez, Austin Soundwaves: Austin Soundwaves is a nonprofit organization. They specialize in teaching students who don't have a good -- like, good access to music.

Susana Diaz-Lopez: It's a big family to them. It's something that, even though they weren't born into, they feel very connected to.

A.J. Marks, Austin Soundwaves: I never got to experience any conjunto or mariachi music. I don't have any heritage to a Mexico that I know of. So getting to experience this music with people is really, really, really fascinating.

Susana Diaz-Lopez: Even if you're not a part of the Mexican culture or Hispanic culture, I feel like mariachi music is recognized by anybody.

And so I think it does in some form bridge that gap between cultures. And it also brings a lot of cultural awareness in the U.S. as well.



Amna Nawaz: And you can find more stories from our Student Academy at

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