Goshen College welcomed a new music group to campus last Friday. People may have come for the Performing Arts Series concert with Flor de Toloache, but they also had the opportunity to listen to the debut of a new Mariachi group from ECoSistema.

Mariachi ECo, led by Hillary Harder, is a group that has been in the works since the spring. Gilberto Pérez, Jr., dean of students, approached Harder with the idea for the group. Growing up in South Texas, Pérez was surrounded by a culture of Mariachi, and he wanted to bring that to the community here. ECoSistema felt like a natural place for the program to land, especially with the large Latino population in Goshen.

“We really focus on meeting people where they are musically,” Harder said. “Mariachi is part of the heritage of many people who live in our community, so we should be honoring that music and helping people to learn more about it, as well as providing access to it.”

ECoSistema stands for Elkhart County Sistema, a local group based on the El Sistema community music program that originated in Venezuela. There are four locations in Elkhart County where rehearsals are held, and it seeks to be a network that creates music programming where it is lacking and helps connect students to existing music programs. 

Members come from within the ECoSistema program, Youth Honors Orchestra (YHO) in the Community School of the Arts (CSA) and the Goshen College community — be that students, staff or otherwise. The group consists of members aged middle school and up.

Irish Cortez, a senior theater major, became a member this fall. Cortez heard about the idea for the group and decided that she would work her schedule around gigs and rehearsals to become involved. 

“It’s been so fun,” Cortez said. “The members of the group are so talented and it’s the type of music I love singing. I have always sung this type of music for fun, but now I’m here and I’m able to perform the music I love with a group behind me.”

Regarding their first gig, Harder and Cortez only had praises to share: “I was so proud of the group,” Harder said. “We had only been rehearsing for three weeks at that point. Everyone came together and tapped into the passion and significance behind the music. We had parents and community members there, it was a very exciting night and I was so pleased with the outcome.” 

Cortez  had a similar comment: “I was nervous to perform Mariachi for the first time in real life,” she said, “but it was so exciting. I started singing and it just fell out of me.”

Rehearsals are held weekly with anyone welcome to join. The next performance for mariachi ECo will take place this Saturday during the third annual Goshen Hispanic Heritage Festival in downtown Goshen.