Sharing music through generations

Ruben Moreno playing the trumpet at Playground in Tucson (photo by: Oakley, Alexis)

Ruben Moreno has been playing mariachi music since the spring of 1974. The genre fell into his lap after a knee injury playing football at the University of Arizona sent him to the hospital.

While recovering the Tucson native ran into his former Little League coach whose son was looking for a trumpet player to accompany his mariachi band at Disney World that summer.

Today you can find Moreno every Sunday at Playground Bar & Lounge on Congress St. from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. playing with his band, Mariachi Luz de Luna.

Moreno performing with his trumpet (Photo by: LuzDeLuna)

As a young boy, Moreno was drawn to the trumpet. This love developed from his DNA and the new sound that came from the Herb Alpert Tijuana Brass Band.

“Remember those nursery rhymes you loved as a child? Compare those simple melodies to what you like now… and imagine your future tastes,” Moreno said

Moreno’ was 10 when his father went to a pawnshop and bought his son a cornet. He learned to play through music teachers at his school and his passion began to grow.

One day, while his grandmother was making dinner, Moreno walked up to her and said he wanted to share something he had been working on. He broke out sheet music for “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and  and started to play. She shared something with him. His grandfather had played the trumpet before the Mexican Revolution.

“My connection to my mother’s father, my maternal grandfather is one of amazing gratitude and respect, as to what he survived to pass on to me genetically, as his first grandson. I was only 8 years old when he died, but now that I know his life story, I believe that behaviors and passions can pass genetically to future generations. It connects me to a grander scheme of life and evolution of our species. It reminds me of the words of great wisdom.”

His grandfather was a part of the Military Academy Band in Aguascalientes, however, when the government shut down his father’s business he searched for a way to help. He became connected to Poncho Villa and served in the revolution. During the war he was injured and made his way to Tucson.

Since his days playing at Disney World, Moreno has formed his own mariachi where he plays trumpet, Mariachi Luz De Luna. It is with this band that he was invited to play on Jimmy Kimmel. He also decided to work with schools to teach traditional mariachi music. He believes that he can help maintain the tradition if he pushes  younger generations learn the discipline that comes with playing an instrument.

Ruben’s mission is discussed on his website, “Focused on educating younger generations about the tradition of mariachi music, Ruben has helped shape the mariachi curriculum at a few local high schools.”

Moreno hopes that his love for the traditional music will be passed down to not only his students but their children and other generations to come.

Moreno’s mariachi band, “Mariachi Luz De Luna” (photo by LuzDeLuna)

“Mariachi as a genre, or style, has the widest range of human emotions… from the soothing, to the gentlest romantic, to the most heartbreaking, to the most happy energetic foot-stomping celebration songs.”

However, with today’s popular music moving in a different direction Moreno does not think that the tradition of mariachi will be effected.

“However, young people today, and in every generation, have fresh new music options that appeal to them because of their newness, hipness, or being in style. Music is a choice of identity for an individual. We like a song because we identify with its message or feel. Young people identify with the newest music because it is of their generation,” said Moreno

Moreno has passed along the love of mariachi to his daughter who plays violin and his son who is learning vihuela. 

“We are defined also by our culture,… so if you grow up with country music, you will like country music, or any other style that you grew up with, in your culture or household. … And the more one grows, the more sophisticated his/her choice of music will become. Your complex, experienced brain will require more complex sophisticated music to identify with,” Moreno said


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Alexis Oakley is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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