Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar presents a certificate of achievement from the village to resident Bryana Martinez, 15, a Latin Grammy nominee with Mariachi Herencia de Mexico.
While many teens enjoy listening to music and watching awards shows, Chicago Ridge resident Bryana Martinez, 15, is a recording artist herself and a Latin Grammy Award nominee to boot.
The Mother McAuley High School sophomore started playing the violin when she was 4 years old and living in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She later attended St. Gerald School in Oak Lawn before graduating from Our Lady of the Ridge School in Chicago Ridge.
“I now play the violin and the trumpet,” she said. “As a freshman I was in the band program, and this year I am in choir and orchestra.”
She also plays both instruments and sings as a leading member of Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, a student ensemble sponsored by the Mariachi Heritage Foundation in Chicago. The group featuring youths ages 8 to 18 released its debut album, “Nuestra Herencia,” (Our Heritage) in May. Martinez was among 16 members of the group, between the ages of 11 and 18, chosen to perform on the CD. The CD reached No. 2 on the Latin Album designation on iTunes, the most successful major student mariachi album release in mariachi history.
The album was nominated for a Latin Grammy in the "Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album" category, and Martinez is looking forward to attending the awards ceremony in Las Vegas with her bandmates on Nov. 16. It will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“It feels unbelievable to say that we’re nominated for a Grammy, I feel really happy,” said Martinez. “When I play mariachi music, I feel connected to my roots and showing people what my heritage is all about is really fun.”
She said she enjoyed performing with the group at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16 for Mexican Independence Day.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar already presented her with a certificate of achievement at the Oct. 3 village board meeting.
“It is great to see one of our own residents being nominated for a Grammy,” he said at the time.
“I felt really happy about getting that,” said Martinez, who also performs in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Between band performances and practice, often two hours per day on both the trumpet and violin, Martinez also manages to keep a very high grade-point average.
“She’s being very modest. She has earned several academic scholarships, including the Sisters of Mercy Service Scholarship,” said Jennifer Busk, the communications director at Mother McAuley.
“Music does take up a lot of my time. But I do enjoy going back to the Back of the Yards neighborhood with my mother and helping out there,” said Martinez.
During the Christmas season, she also participates in posadas in the neighborhood, where groups of people go house to house, singing and playing music as they re-enact the story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay.
“I keep my schedule book and make sure I have all my homework and assignments done the day before I have any performances,” she said, when asked how she manages her busy schedule.
While only a sophomore, she is already thinking ahead to college and a career, too.
“I would like to be a professional mariachi musician, and I am thinking of studying music therapy in college. I like the idea of helping people through music,” said Martinez, who is considering going to either Northwestern or DePaul University.