I Want to Add Mariachi to My School’s Music Program. Where Do I Start? Part II

Jaimie L. Abney-Giraldo • March 2023Mariachi • March 13, 2023

SBO+: This is part 2 (part 1 was in the January 2022 issue) offering a step-by-step guide to establishing a mariachi program in your school. Read Part One Here.

STEP 3 – Get Trained and Build Your Network – 1+ Year Pre-Implementation and Ongoing

As a classically-trained music teacher, you already have many of the musical tools and much of the knowledge needed to be able to teach mariachi. However, you likely do not know how to play all the mariachi instruments or know much about the history, culture, or song styles of the mariachi genre. Unfortunately, this is not something readily available at a post-secondary level (yet!), so you need to seek out and very likely travel to a workshop developed for this purpose.

Music educators from all over the United States (and beyond) travel to attend the annual National Mariachi Workshops for Educators, provided by Music Education Consultants. This workshop most often takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, and features the talented instructional staff from the Clark County, Nevada, school district that has helped to build one of the most well-known and -respected mariachi education programs in the country. During this weeklong workshop, participants will learn how to play and teach all the mariachi instruments, the culture, history, and traditions of mariachi, the various song styles and techniques, correct Spanish pronunciation (NO – you do not need to speak Spanish to teach mariachi!), and make connections with other educators who are on the same mariachi education journey.

The national workshop is your best option for learning all you need to know. However, if you cannot make it to the national workshop (distance, date conflicts, etc.), you might also consider attending the Elgin Mariachi Education Workshop in Elgin, IL. This is hosted by School District U-46 and provided by Music Education Consultants, and features many of the same top-notch instructors from the national workshop. You will learn the same content and skills (except harp) and will be able to build a network of contacts.

However, and wherever you receive your training, it is important to plan to continue to attend the summer workshops for at least the first several years of your program’s implementation. Each year, you can advance to a higher workshop level and gain additional resources and literature, which will help you to build your sheet music library and your professional network. 

STEP 4 – Build the Hype! – 4-6 Months Pre-Implementation and Ongoing

It’s almost time to start teaching mariachi at your school! Now is the time to start building the hype in your school and community. 

Build a brand for your program. What will your mariachi’s name be?  Can you use a translation of your school’s mascot, or the school’s colors?  Is there something unique or significant in your community that could contribute to your program’s/group’s name?  Create a logo for your group and start to build out a webpage, social media page(s), and a plan to manage community performance requests (and you will probably receive a lot of them!).

Be prepared to educate your community on the value of mariachi education and why it is important in your school. Think back to the research and demographic data you reviewed when you were educating yourself – you will be able to use much of these same resources to help educate your school community! Consider posting flyers around town to share important facts about mariachi education.

Advertise your enrollment process and timeline. Put up flyers at your school, send information home in your school’s weekly digital backpack or newsletter, put information on the school’s website, talk with your school counselors, and any other type of advertising you can think of! Talk to students in your English Learner program or AP Spanish classes and remember this is not a genre or program that is limited only to Latinx students – so make sure you are advertising far and wide to include all your school’s and community’s students who may be interested.

STEP 5 – Share Your Successes – Implementation and Beyond

Throughout your implementation, make sure you share your successes with your school, administration, and community! Make your group visible, performing for school or community events and engaging with your building’s needs. Take pictures and videos (with parent permission) to showcase what your students are learning and performing to share on your webpage and social media account(s). You might even consider working with your local newspapers to feature your program’s implementation, growth, and successes.

Continue to keep in touch with your mentors and mariachi education network to share ideas and successes as well. This is a vibrant community that wants to help support mariachi education, and will be invaluable as a support or resource for your program. Looking for a specific song a parent or student requested?  Chances are someone in your network has it and can send it to you! Running into a unique challenge?  Chances are someone in your network has encountered something similar and may have suggestions to help you through it. 

Beyond all of this, continue to be a resource to others. When other area schools notice your mariachi program, they will likely have questions and express interest in how they might be able to bring it to their own school. Don’t be afraid to share your journey of successes and roadblocks to help someone else bring this beautiful artform to their school community.

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