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If you’ve ever been to a big Mexican celebration or party, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a mariachi band. The show-stopping music gets people dancing and cheering, and can quickly make grandparents tear up as they remember life growing up in Mexico. And thanks to the Chicago Mariachi Project, the next generation of mariachi musicians is thriving.

Founded just last year by Álvaro Obregon, the Chicago Mariachi Project already has about 50 students ages 8 to 18. They come from all over the Chicago area and meet every Saturday to practice at Benito Juarez High School.

Students in the program get to work with renowned mariachi musicians from around the country – and even from Mexico.

Obregon says the program will only continue to grow. In a few years, he thinks there could be a couple hundred mariachi students in the program, with several ensembles performing regularly around the city – even the country.

As for funding for the program – so far there is none; time – and most of the instruments – are donated.

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