Mariachi program leader: Quincy ‘fits the formula for success’
For most of us, mariachi music is just that, music. For the students at Mariachi Huenachi, it’s a way to fulfill a treasured dream.
“A lot of our students,” said Ramon Rivera, director of the nationally acclaimed student mariachi music program at Wenatchee High School, “their families did not go to college. So my job as an educator is to take them to Central (Washington University) to WSU, to UW. Music is an avenue to connect them to schools.”
Now, Rivera wants to extend that avenue 30 miles to the east, to Quincy.
“I wanna spread the mariachi fever all over the place,” said Rivera, who has planted the seed of mariachi music in places such as Federal Way and now has Quincy as a future launching pad for a music program similar to Mariachi Huenachi.
Rivera said Quincy “fits the formula for success.” This, he added, is a formula with several key ingredients, like the support of the superintendent, the school board and music teachers.
The mariachi program will be in place within two years, Rivera said, with the program likely starting out with some after-school classes before becoming part of the curriculum full-time. There might be some bumps in the road, like the misconception that mariachi music belongs to a single ethnic group of people.
“Mariachi music is for everybody,” he said. “There’s mariachis in Japan, Sweden, England, Canada, all over the place.” Mariachi music is international and not the property of Latino or Hispanic people, he added.
Not only is it international but it is intergenerational, with musicians ranging in age from 5 to 85, he said.
“When we learn music, a C is a C, a D is a D,” he said, referring to the musical notes, not the grading letters.
In Washington state, students playing mariachi music not only are paving their path to higher education and increasing their musical IQ, they are also keeping alive a branch of music that is more than 100 years old.
In Wenatchee, one of the ways this music has taken hold is via the Northwest Mariachi Music Festival, held annually at Town Toyota Center.
Having the festival at such a large venue for our region has helped the festival grow, Jennifer Bushong, media relations manager for the center, wrote in an email.
“The facility has enabled the festival to grow from serving only a few students to now over 450 mariachi students,” she added, “(while) bringing world-class performers like (Mexican singing star) Ana Barbara.”
Mariachi Huenachi opened for Ana Barbara last week, with dancers from WHS performing alongside Ana Barbara, and Mariachi Las Aguilas, from Eastern Washington University, closing the show after she had left the stage.
“The students have the opportunity to watch and/or perform with these musicians,” Bushong wrote. “This would not have been possible without the support of the Town Toyota Center management team bringing the artists all together.”
In Quincy, the day for opening for stars like Ana Barbara is still far away, but the school district has taken small steps to build the program and they are in the right direction, Rivera said, with teachers, including Kylie Youngren (choir), integrating small parts of mariachi music learning into her curriculum.
“I thought it was really amazing for her to start doing it,” Rivera said. “A lot of kids are going to get excited about this program.”
This is the second of three parts. Read Part I by clicking here.
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org