There aren’t many songs that Alberto Madrid can’t play on the acoustic guitar.
However, the longtime musician and mariachi director in Midland is always eager to learn more.
A Midland native, Madrid has been playing the guitar for 45 years. He came from a family of musicians.
Many people have recognized him from playing solo gigs at fundraisers and private events as well as in the band Current Nine.
“I started when I was 12 and I grew up listening to music,” Madrid said. “My parents were both singers. They sung in a mariachi group. My mom (Concepcion Martinez) is from Mexico so we’ve been going to Mexico since I was little. Most of my uncles are musicians as well.”
Growing up, there was always music for Madrid.
“My uncles in Mexico, they were always ready to help me out to learn and pretty much got started on that,” Madrid said. “I eventually started playing rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve been surrounded by music ever since.”
When he’s not teaching or playing with Current Nine, he’s doing solo gigs all over the area.
“I tried doing gigs at restaurants but people don’t go to restaurants for music usually,” Madrid said. “They go for food. Most of my gigs have been private gigs like at the Aphasia Center.”
Earlier this year, he played for the West Texas Aphasia Center’s Chocolate Decadance Fundraiser back in January.
“I can tell you that our guests loved him,” West Texas Aphasia Center Executive Director Kitty Binek said. “He was very flexible. He ended up playing even longer than we originally scheduled him for. He stepped in and didn’t mind playing more than we needed him to. He does a great job and our guests loved listening to him.”
Madrid also performs at the Midland Country Club on Friday nights too.
“That’s been really good and I have an audience there too,” Madrid said. “The whole thing is no matter what, if you play in a band or if you’re a soloist, having an audience is the most important thing to appreciate because people like what you do and that goes beyond money and everything. Having an audience that appreciates what you do, that’s very fulfilling as a musician.”
He’ll get plenty of compliments from his audience members at gigs.
“The tip jar gets hit quite a bit,” Madrid said while laughing. “It’s really good to watch an audience and when you’re playing a song, see who perks up. It’s always great. I sometimes get requests too. Doing it so long, my repertoire is really expansive. I’ll get requests and be like ‘wow, I haven’t played this in a while’ so I’ll think back and it’ll come back to my memory. The most challenging thing about doing this is staying fresh. You can’t show up to gigs, playing the same music all the time so part of being in music is that the journey never ends. There’s always something to learn.”
Madrid graduated from Midland High in 1983. He went on to study classical guitar at Texas Tech.
“That just opened the door for what I’m doing now,” Madrid said. “I was always doing my own thing on the guitar but as far as the classical thing is concerned, that’s where I got the knowledge and inspiration to do what I do. It’s all my own arrangements of tunes. It’s called finger style.”
Madrid will incorporate classical rock technique with contemporary arrangements.
He’ll take songs such as Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and perform them acoustically.
“I’m always hearing a song and thinking ‘that would sound pretty good one to learn because Bach was the one who said that guitar was a little orchestra because it’s all there,’” Madrid said. “All the instruments and all the sounds are there. It’s been a lot of fun and challenging. Playing by yourself like that without a group and incorporating all those different styles because it’s all styles. It’s rock, blues and everything. Some people may not like one style but they’ll probably like the other.”
His family has been filled with musicians that have inspired him but specifically, his uncle Raymond Rodriguez helped ignite his passion for playing the guitar.
“He was the requinto player in my dad’s group,” Madrid said. “He was real flashy, real fast and that technique really inspired me to be a guitar player.”
Soon after, his other uncle Ray Madrid gifted him with a guitar to start learning.
“It really stuck with me,” Alberto said. “It was just a classic guitar. It was a pretty good one but not the best one in the world. It was still a good one to start learning on. I was always gravitating to rock and roll. I’ve played with a bunch of rock bands and country and blues in the area. I’ve had a pleasure of playing with a lot of different people.”
Madrid makes sure to learn new songs so that he doesn’t have to keep playing the same library of music at each gig.
“The thing about it is, and this goes for any musician, you’re a lifelong learner,” Madrid said. “The whole thing about music is that it’s a lifelong journey. I’m so lucky to be a part of that journey.”
When asked what’s been the most challenging piece he’s had to play, Madrid said Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”
“That one was pretty challenging,” Madrid said. “I’m working on a Bach fugue called Fugue BMV 1000. Also, ‘Freebird’ was pretty challenging as well. I didn’t know it could be done that way. That surprised a lot of people.”
Madrid just finished up his first year teaching Mariachi at Goddard Junior High and Bunche Elementary in Midland.
Prior to that, he taught mariachi in Ector County for years, teaching at various places including UTPB, Odessa College and Ector Junior High.
He left to teach in Midland to try and build a mariachi program.
It’s a challenge that he has so far relished.
“I love it,” Madrid said. “We’re building right now and that’s always exciting. We’re building from the ground up so there’s a lot of challenges but the kids really like it. We’re hoping to have more growth and have more kids in the program.”
Currently, he says he has about 120 students combined from Goddard and Bunche in his mariachi programs.
“What a lot of people forget, that when you’re a mariachi director, it’s band, it’s orchestra and guitar all at the same time,” Madrid said. “But it’s really fulfilling and doing it for so long, there’s a system that works. It’s a really fulfilling job.”
Current Nine is made up musicians in the area with numerous experience including educators.
The members of that band include Emily Baker, Eric Baker, Dan Ferguson, Jordan Holmes, Tyler Lillestol, Mark Lowe, Jimmy Olague, Ethan Wills and Madrid.
One piece of advice Madrid has for future guitar players is to be patient and always expand and take lessons from people that they can benefit from.
“Do anything you can to improve your technique and also play what makes you happy,” Madrid said. “Play what you enjoy and just pursue it. Pick it up every day because the hardest part is getting it out of the case.”