Student composer is hooked on classics – blended with Hispanic heritage
“I love beautiful melodies,” said Sahid Palacios ’25.
As a young violinist, he found many of those melodies in the classical works by European composers such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky he began playing in his El Paso, Texas, grade school orchestra. In high school, he discovered more when he joined another ensemble, this one performing the traditional music that would likely have been familiar to his extended family in Mexico.
“In Texas, most high schools have a mariachi,” Palacios said (the term refers to the genre of music as well as the musicians or groups who play it). “And it’s growing now. There are middle schools and elementary schools that are starting to have mariachi.”
In fact, the music performance major, who plays guitar as well as violin, hopes to start a mariachi club at Furman – but his overall creative vision emerges in original compositions like “Introduccion y Polka,” featured on his YouTube channel. His music blends mariachi with classical, combining the traditional guitar, violin and trumpet sounds with a full symphony orchestra.
“Everyone’s stuck in this mentality that you should always play traditional music from the past,” said Palacios, who was inspired by the boundary-breaking compositions of José Hernández, founder of Mariachi Sol de Mexico. “I just want to change the music and give a new feel to it.”
Heartbreak, happiness and pride
The beauty and romance of symphonic music blends well with the emotion and passion of mariachi, Palacios said.
“Mariachi is a little hard to describe if you don’t know Spanish, because a lot of it is in the lyrics,” he said. “They always talk about being heartbroken and wanting love. It’s also very happy and proud of the culture. And another aspect is tequila – a lot of people drink tequila in Mexico, so it’s a big part of the music.”
Born in El Paso, Palacios spent a few early years in Juarez, Mexico, before returning to Texas. He remained in the Southwest for his first year of college, attending New Mexico State University (NMSU), where he played in a mariachi band (one of their popular numbers was “Atrapado Entre los Classicos,” a mariachi arrangement of “Hooked on Classics”).
At NMSU, he also gained a mentor in violin teacher and conductor Simón Gollo. In 2022, when Gollo left Las Cruces to join Furman’s faculty as an associate professor of violin, Palacios also headed to Greenville, South Carolina.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Palacios. “I was bracing myself because I knew it was going to be different. But it was good when I got here; in my first semester, I met so many people and made so many connections.”
Eyes and ears on the future
Along with bonding over music with fellow students in the Daniel Music Building, Palacios soon connected with the Hispanic Outreach and Latinx Awareness (HOLA) student organization, which is helping to present many of the campus events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. While he ultimately plans to enter graduate school for an eventual doctorate degree in music, Palacios said he might take some time beforehand to teach public school and open his own studio.
And, of course, “I want to keep composing,” he said – keeping his eyes on the future of mariachi and his ears open for more beautiful melodies.