Saturday, August 8, 2020
US flag

Now this Calif. high school has its own mariachi band

A teacher at Venice High School in California, using a grant from Farmers Insurance, has begun working with the first mariachi band ever at the school, which serves a predominantly Hispanic population.

Some teachers in the country have won bigger grants through the insurance company’s “Thank America’s Teachers” program, but David Lee’s mariachi band at Venice High School, the first such ensemble in the school’s 100-plus-year history, must number among the projects that bring the best sound, dancing, and fun into the lives of students.

“I get to connect with my culture and where I came from,” Joshua Fenty, the web editor of the student newspaper, The Oarsman, quoted one sophomore violinist as saying. “It makes me happy that I have something to remind me of my roots.”

In addition to as many as eight violins, a typical mariachi group can consist of two trumpets and at least one guitar. The vihuela is a traditional high-pitched guitar (five strings: A3 D4 G4 B3 E4) that has a round back and is used mainly to provide the rhythm. A guitarrón also provides rhythm for the ensemble, but it’s about an octave lower (six strings: A1 D2 G2 C3 E3 A2).

On occasion, depending on the music being performed or the arrangement, mariachi groups can have a flute, French horn, accordion, and organ.

Thank America’s Teachers Grants

This year, 180 teachers will receive $2,500 grants to fund projects in the classroom through a program funded by Farmers Insurance.

“We couldn’t be more excited to see the array of proposals for innovative school and classroom programs,” says Farmers Insurance. “In the past, Farmers has spent millions of dollars funding programs right in your backyard like:

  • Indoor equestrian learning facility for special needs children and adults
  • Teen driving training course
  • Literacy initiatives to help at-risk readers

“Inspired by their great work and tireless dedication, we created the Thank America’s Teachers initiative,” the company says on its website.

The Mariachi Tradition

In Mexico, mariachi groups have a tradition of male dominance. That is, not too many women participate in traditional mariachi bands in Mexico. At a US high school, however, even though the group may still serenade a female student on her birthday or other special occasion, the mariachi band at Venice will include female musicians.

Enjoyment of the music, as the sophomore student suggests, generally comes because the performance reminds people of scenes from their childhood or takes them to far-away places.

The group is known as the Mariachi Gondeleros, and they rehearse every Friday for about an hour after school.

“Mariachi Band is a great and exciting opportunity for students and staff to perform,” Mr Lee was quoted as saying. “It’s always fun to learn something new.”

Additional Resources

In Tucson, Arizona, a few good sources for books about and traditional arrangements of music for this type of ensemble can be found, including several branches of Yoly’s Music Shop. Yelp says the phone number for the branch on 12th Street is (520) 620-0830.

And if you read Spanish and want a real textbook for the school’s library, I would recommend Origen e historia del mariachi (Serie Historia regional) (Spanish Edition) by Hermes Rafael. The book comes with a price tag over $100, so it’ll probably have to stay in the reference section of the library, but it’s a self-published, authentic study of the origin of the mariachi and their musicians in Mexico.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.