Violins and guitars aren’t usually paired with buckets and sponges, but Adan Florez thinks the combination might help his group and entertain the community at the same time.
Florez directs Mariachi de Ahwatukee, a performing ensemble and educational class focused on teaching mariachi culture that recently received an invitation to perform at the Arizona State Fair later this month.
“We've talked about having a car wash and a show later this year,” Florez said, “Bring your car in for wash, and we'll entertain you with mariachi music.”
His group stresses both the importance of educating members on the Mexican culture and helping to enrich “areas of Ahwatukee that have little to no exposure to this type of festive music.”
“Our location in Ahwatukee has been instrumental in our approach to how we expose ourselves to the society around us,” Florez said. “We seek locations and events that could use a positive cultural enlightenment through music.”
Florez, 36, originally started the group as a class in 2014 as a chance to give back to the community.
The Tempe native began specializing in brass instruments at age of 10. He eventually joined a mariachi group that performed all over the state as well as with the Phoenix Symphony. It even appeared on PBS’ “Sesame Street.”
In 1996, Florez and that group got the opportunity to perform in front of President Bill Clinton.
After serving in the United States Navy for four years, Florez returned to the Valley.
He is now a music education major at Mesa Community College and teaches private music lessons at Music Maker Workshops in Ahwatukee.
Florez started the class as a way to help give students some of the opportunities he was lucky enough to have.
“I got to do things other children growing up never got to do. I wanted that again for our younger generations and thus Mariachi de Ahwatukee was born” said Florez.
The group has now worked their way up from a music class to full-fledged 11-member mariachi ensemble.
Anyone can become a member of Mariachi de Ahwatukee, Florez said. All ages and skill levels are welcomed, from students looking to improve their confidence in public to professionals trying to get more involved in the community.
“People of all ages can get involved and participate, siblings, spouses, even parents with their kids, so that the Mariachi tradition can be passed on to the next generation,” said Dr. Eva Condon, a physician who has become a student member of Mariachi de Ahwatukee.
Florez said that despite its mix of beginners and seasoned musicians, the band comes together smoothly and quickly.
“It is usually within six months that everybody reaches an advanced level of performance, regardless of age and instrument” Florez said, “Beginners become very dominant performers right away with performances back to back.”
Mariachi de Ahwatukee doesn’t charge for its services, but instead seeks donations toward their “uniform fund,” called “trajes.” Currently, members wear all black from the waist down, with a long-sleeved, white-collared shirt.
The group’s appearance at 10 a.m. Oct. 23 on the State Fair’s Culture Stage is its second appearance at the annual exposition.
Florez said because of the high interest in performing among many groups in the state, Mariachi de Ahwatukee was not guaranteed a spot. One can only request a spot and hope for a call-back, he said, adding he feels grateful for the invitation.
He said the band also appreciates the increased encouragement it has been getting lately on social media.
“I set an event post on our Facebook page identical to last year's post and we got minimal responses. The numbers were something along of the lines of 15 ‘confirmed attending event’ and 60 ‘interested,’” Florez said, “This year's post has been phenomenal with a current number of 461 attending and over 2,100 interested.”
Florez said working with the Ahwatukee community has been a journey for both him and the group.
“One of the greatest parts about being in this mariachi is the reception we receive from the residents of Ahwatukee has been full of acceptance and smiles,” Florez said, “This brings the group a sense of pride and motivation to keep striving for greatness to bring quality performances to Ahwatukee time and time again.”