YOUNG MARIACHI PROJECT
The Young Mariachi Project began in the fall of 2012. It has been a collaboration between the Chehalem Cultural Center and the Newberg School District (NSD). Working with staff from the NSD Welcome Center had identified unmet needs within the Latino student body that were twofold: 1) a need for access to the arts for kids who don’t normally get the exposure and 2) a need for positive, structured activities after school—a crucial time of day when many working-class parents are still at work.
The proposed solution was mariachi: culturally relevant music instruction for middle and high school age students. Three days per week (for the first two years it was five days per week) after school, approximately fifteen students come to the Chehalem Cultural Center to learn the traditional instruments of mariachi music, including guitarrone, vihuela, trumpet, violin, guitar and voice. Once a student is given instruction in every instrument, he or she allowed to select one for focus. Students receive individual instruction in their instrument and they participate in ensemble instruction. At least three times per semester, the group is expected to perform for the public—usually at festivals or events held by the Chehalem Cultural Center but several times they have performed at offsite events.
The Young Mariachi Project reaches across cultural barriers to break underserved kids into the cycle of opportunity. The effect of this is to integrate students from different segments of the same community into the same elective programs already being offered by the schools (but that are not necessarily reaching everyone due to cultural barriers). It is an example of the power of the arts to create community in the most challenge of circumstances: when people are different.
We currently have 2 guitarrones, 4 vihuelas, 10 trumpets, 10 violins, and 20 guitars—as well as various tuning tools and all the curriculum materials.