CHICAGO — Call it the in-flight entertainment: Some of the city’s finest — and youngest — musicians performed aboard a flight for their fellow passengers on Tuesday.
The child performers from Pilsen-based Chicago Mariachi Project were on a Southwest Air flight when they took out their instruments and performed in the aisle. A video shared from the group on Twitter shows the group of kids strumming their instruments and singing.
The video shows the other passengers smiling as they listened and taking out their cellphones to record the group.
“It’s a kick for a lot of these young people because they’re just kids from Chicago and here they are doing some really cool things and also sharing their art form far, far away from home,” said Álvaro Obregón, the founder and president of the group.
The group, including four adults and 12 kids aged 13 to 18, were headed to the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque. They were on a layover in Dallas when the flight staff approached them and asked if they’d be open to performing on the plane to Albuquerque, Obregón said.
The group agreed. Then, once they were up in the air, the flight attendants announced to the passengers, “We have a big treat for you guys! We have on board a mariachi band!”
The other passengers looked around for the band, and the kids stood up and began performing, “El Carretero,” a “very beautiful”and “very traditional” song about a man going through a town with his wagon, Obregón said.
The other passengers applauded at the end of the performance, and the pilot came out after the landing and congratulated the kids on their performance.
The Mariachi Project won first place in the national mariachi conference last year. This is the group’s fifth year attending and the fourth year where students came.
“We’re the first group from Chicago to compete at a national competition,” Obregón said. “Lo and behold, we won first place. And I think it blew everybody away.”
The group won’t compete at the conference this year because it brought intermediate-level students along with advanced students, Obregón said. They wanted to “invest in the future” by bringing the less experienced musicians and hope the mariachi conference will inspire them.
“It really changes their perspective. I always see a change in them when they return,” Obregón said. “It’s like they’re more committed and … it’s just great to see young people holding up their culture and embracing it and sharing that with the world.”