At a Glance
Major(s): French, Music
Ed Priest ’82 carved out a career as a Spanish and French teacher, but his great love is music—so much so that during his travels to Mexico for Spanish-language immersion programs, he joined a mariachi band.
Priest, who double-majored in French and music at UMass Lowell, started playing guitar with a group of mariachi musicians whom he met in 2009 in Cuernavaca, a city about two hours south of Mexico City. Over the years during return visits, he joined the band for numerous weekend gigs, often packing several performances into a single day. He played at formal weddings and bustling street festivals, at lavish quinceañeras and casual backyard parties. He had a mariachi suit custom-tailored for his performances.
“I loved it there,” says Priest, who lives in Middleborough, Massachusetts. “We would play elegant parties, and then at the next gig there would be chickens running around.”
The musicians he met were welcoming and encouraging. He learned the dance steps to the song “El Mariachi Loco.” Then, when the band played it, he would dance with an audience member.
“It’s party music. People enjoy it,” he says.
For Priest, who first visited Cuernavaca in the late 1990s, the bonds with the mariachi musicians were the magnet that drew him back again and again.
“It was the camaraderie and the friendships I made. It was so wonderful to be a part of it,” he says.
Back in his student days, Priest entertained crowds at the Rathskeller, the campus pub that was located in Fox Hall. He had gotten to know Dean of Students Leo King, who helped him land the paid gig. The money he earned strumming songs by Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffet, The Beatles and others helped pay his tuition.
He met his wife, Andrea (Mendoza) ’83, in a jazz music class on South Campus. The couple married in 1983 and have two grown children. Andrea retired from her job as executive director of the Middleborough Council on Aging in 2020.
“The best thing I ever did was marry Andrea,” he says.
After 30 years teaching French and Spanish, Priest retired from the Lawrence School, a junior high school in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in 2019. He continues performing locally, including a sold-out St. Patrick’s Day show in March at the Alley Theatre in Middleborough. Connecting with others through song continues to bring him joy.
“I love music. I could live without French and Spanish, but not without music,” he says.
Priest’s last trip to Cuernavaca was in November 2022. Will he return? He says that at age 69, his travels to Mexico will be less frequent, but he’s not ruling it out.
“I had my mariachi suit dry-cleaned last week.”