By John Philip Wyllie
Years ago, people scoffed at American-born Mark Fogelquist and his fascination with mariachi music, particularly his idea of taking a UCLA-based student mariachi group and turning it into a professional ensemble.
“There was a considerable level of non-acceptance,” Fogelquist recalled. “People laughed at me.” Nobody is laughing anymore.
Not only did he accomplish exactly what he set out to do, he has built upon that success. Parlaying a successful career as a mariachi violinist into one as a teacher, Fogelquist is spreading the word about the music he loves the most.
For nearly a decade, Foglequist, who is of Swedish and Danish descent, has introduced mariachi music into the public school classrooms of Wenatchee, Washington and more recently into those in Chula Vista’s Sweetwater Union High School District.
So, why would an American of Scandinavian descent want to become a professional mariachi and then teach the music of a foreign culture to a new generation of junior high and high school students?
“When I was 13 years old, we spent a summer in Guadalajara, Mexico. My dad was a professor of Spanish at UCLA for 30 years. He brought us down there while he was teaching a summer session at the University of Guadalajara. That is where I first heard mariachi music and I was immediately attracted to it. I thought it was the most exciting music I had ever heard. It hit me like a bolt of lightning,” Fogelquist recalled.
His 1961 family trip to Guadalajara turned out to be a life-changing event. It motivated him to master the violin he had begun playing a few years earlier. He went on to found and perform in a very well regarded mariachi band for many years. Eventually, he decided to try his hand at teaching. He wanted to transfer much of what he learned to a new generation of kids interested in enjoying this quintessential element of Mexican heritage. For nearly a decade Fogelquist, has been teaching mariachi music and performing along side of his students.
Ready to kick off the first annual Viejas-Sweetwater Mariachi Festival (June 25 29), Fogelquist is taking his love for mariachi music to a new level.
“We will be holding workshops for the 300 students that have enrolled (at Del Rey Middle School in Chula Vista) June 25, 26, and 27,” Fogelquist said. 30 top-notch professional mariachi musicians will be on hand to provide expert instruction. Two days of concerts will follow that weekend on Saturday and Sunday June 28 and 29.
“When I was teaching mariachi music to my students in Washington, to get an experience like this I had to fly them to Albuquerque, New Mexico at a cost of about $700 per kid. Here, we are providing it to the SUHSD students for $10. Following the workshops, the students and general public will have the opportunity to hear one of the world’s top mariachi groups perform when Mariachi Sol de Mexico takes the Viejas Stage for two concerts (a $10 afternoon matinee and $15 evening performance). For additional information contact Fogelquist at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (619) 691-5499