The Bakersfield City School District received a $5,000 grant from the Ralphs/Foods Co Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2005. The grant was presented to the district in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (October 2005). BCSD mariachi students from Curran Middle School and College Heights Elementary School performed!
On Saturday, March 12, 2005 students from Curran Middle School, College Heights Elementary School, and Mt. Vernon Elementary Schools participated in the annual “Viva el Maraichi” workshop. The event was held in Fresno, California and included a performance by several BCSD students the following day on stage in front of thousands of people attending the festival. The mariachi instructors, some of the top performers in the country, were outstanding in working with the students and plans have been made for a return in 2006. The district mariachi program celebrates its 11-year anniversary this year.
Members of the Hispanic community proposed adding a Mariachi music component to the Bakersfield City School District curriculum in the fall of 1994. A committee of community members, school district administrators, and teachers met to develop a plan. A generous donation from the “Las Fiestas” community organization followed, and on November 22, 1994, the Board of Education approved the Mariachi Music Program to be implemented at Curran, Garza, Mt. Vernon and Sierra schools.
To initiate the program, community businesses and individuals donated funds for instruments, music, costumes, and teacher/student training. The School District has continued to provide resources for music, instrument upkeep, and teacher salaries. Many musical arrangements have been purchased in addition to several method books. Instruments have received regular yearly servicing. In addition, the District purchased vests for students in 1996.
Since the first Mariachi performance for the BCSD Board meeting in April of 1995, students have performed for a wide variety of community organizations and events. Students have been featured in local television news segments, radio broadcasts, and several newspaper articles. In addition, students have performed in numerous parades and for other communities such as the city of Shafter and on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Our Mariachi groups currently hold an open invitation to perform at the University of Southern California.
The Mariachi curriculum provides the opportunity for students to learn the music and culture of the Mariachi. Mariachi music becomes a catalyst through which students learn individual and collaborative skills, and recognize themselves as members of a community and global society.
The curriculum consists of teaching students instrumental/vocal skills and techniques, improvisational, and historical/cultural components of the Mariachi music. Additionally, the curriculum combines traditional music of Mexico with the study of cultural history, art, geography, and language. The curriculum strives to include students of all cultures to promote understanding of culture and diversity.
As apprentices of Mariachi music students become:
- Self-directed learners who set goals, acquire skills, perfect abilities, and accept responsibility for their own contribution to the music
- Collaborative workers who interact with other group members to strengthen commitment to the group and to the performance
- Community contributors who share their talent, enthusiasm, and dedication to the preservation and enjoyment of a cultural music
- Producers of quality music who strive to master an art form while focusing on continuous improvement
- Students will gain an understanding of the historical development of Mariachi music.
- Student will explore and experiment with different musical styles and techniques to further their understanding of improvisation and musical interpretation.
- Students will gain confidence in their abilities as musicians individually and as members of a group.
- Student will participate in quality musical experiences of a multigenerational tradition to learn respect and understanding of a musical form.
- Students will develop a life-long appreciation and interest in music.
- Students will develop critical thinking, problem solving, and responsibility in developing performance skills.
- To develop an appreciation for a musical form and its development.
- To understand regional and historical variations of Mariachi music.
- To develop the ability to successfully represent a variety of Mariachi skills/techniques, using a violin, trumpet, guitar, vihuela, or guitarron.
- To incorporate traditional rhythms used in Mariachi music into musical performances.
- To increase awareness of the literal and emotional content of music.
STUDENT INVOLVEMENT & RESULTS
Students have responded to the Mariachi Program by spending time outside of regularly scheduled instruction time for learning, rehearsing, and performing Mariachi music. Students have expanded their understanding of their unique role in developing the community’s ability to recognize, understand, and appreciate cultural diversity by performing for various groups such as school assemblies, the California State Retired Teachers Association, the Kiwanis Club, and the Sociedad Progresista de Mexicana. This is in addition to numerous parade performances in which students have participated.
Learning on such a personal level is actively pursued through various strategies. Students reflect regularly on their participation in serving the school community and community at large through several modes. Students reflect by discussing, by listening, and by writing of their experiences. By listening to community presenters and in discussion among themselves, time to reflect on what they are doing is accomplished. Through reflection students have developed a better sense of who they are, how they think, and how they act. For some students, Mariachi participation has improved behavior. For others, participation has improved school attendance. For all, the Mariachi Program has shown the capability to reach students in a unique and powerful way. Although no District study has been made to quantify specific results of curricular objectives, teacher anecdotal evidence suggests that as a result of the Mariachi Program, students involved have shown growth in academic, personal and social areas.
Through participation in the Mariachi Program, students have increased their mastery of the subject matter of music by increased exposure of not only different styles of music but reinforcement of basic concepts common to all types of music. This has occurred through teacher instruction and professional instruction of students at workshops such as the annual Mariachi Workshop in Fresno sponsored by the Las Fiestas organization. In turn students have used their improved skills to enhance other school ensembles such as their school orchestras and bands. Further interaction is also beginning with the various youth Mariachi programs in the community and with Bakersfield College.
Parents have enthusiastically supported program results. In some instances, parents have become so taken by the Mariachi Program that they have enrolled for Mariachi instruction themselves at Bakersfield College to learn along with their children!
Parent support has taken many forms. Complimentary statements are made often at performances. Active participation in transporting students to performances and purchasing white shirts and pants are most common. Parents spent countless hours hand sewing thousands of sequins on Mariachi vests. Parents have also spent entire days working to prepare floats for participation in city parades.
Contributed by Richard Rodriguez, Curran Middle School