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News from 2022-2023

Posted: January 31, 2023

Harrison Middle School Showcases its Mariachi Magic

Program links many students to their culture while teaching important life skills

Students at Harrison Middle School like Judith Monsivais Jabalera, an eighth grader, and Xavier Contreras, a seventh grader, like their mariachi program because it’s fun and, in Xavier’s case, because it has made him a much better guitar player.

But for Isaac Hidalgo, the music director at Harrison, the true value of the program is that it’s teaching students such life skills as perseverance and accountability and that it’s connecting many of them to their culture.

 “I think there’s so much that can be learned, like general accountability – maintenance of an instrument,” Mr. Hidalgo says. “The delayed gratification that comes with trying one thing and it not sounding good for five months until it’s just like, ‘Oh, we finally got it.” I think the delayed gratification is a really big one. I feel like that’s a lost art in the world with TikTok and a lot of the things that are instant gratification nowadays. And the friendships that they make along the way.”

And, of course, Mr. Hidalgo hopes his students walk away with a greater appreciation, a greater love for the music.

Hidalgo and his students showcased their work during a lively performance last week. Judith and Christine Mancera Torres, a seventh grader, were nervous to take the stage before the performance.

Both said there were “a lot more people” than they had expected. Xavier, who is in his second year of the mariachi program, said he wasn’t too nervous because “I’ve done this before.”

So why mariachi, a traditional Mexican genre featuring rhythmic melodies?

“Mariachi, as a music, is primarily shared through generational singers,” Hidalgo says, noting that for many students it’s reminiscent of the songs that their grandmas and grandpas would sing. “Because it has such an intertwined cultural connection here with our students, I think it’s very appropriate.”

“Culture, I think is what makes us who we are,” he later adds. “The reason why I did mariachi was because my grandpa loved doing it. It’s one of those ways that we show respect to our ancestors singing the same songs that they did for generations as well as continuing to love it today. It’s fun music, it’s beautiful music and it’s worth playing and sharing.”

Culture aside, Judith says the biggest thing she’s learned through mariachi is “how much easier it is to work on a team than by yourself.”