Fresno State Mariachi
Fresno State Mariachi

How VAPA Spent Their Summer Vacation

"Pirates, the Musical," at Monroe Elementary
"Pirates, the Musical," at Monroe Elementary
Diversity around the world at Desmond Middle
Diversity around the world at Desmond Middle
By Dr. Marchéta Williams, Visual and Performing Arts Director

Dr. Marcheta Williams, Visual and Performing Arts DirectorWHETHER YOU KNOW it or not, Madera Unified is developing a Mariachi Program. Students at selected elementary, middle school, and high school sites will have the opportunity to learn and participate in the Mariachi Program. The program will include traditional singing and instruction for playing traditional instruments found in the Mariachi Ensemble. Teachers began preparation and training for the the new musical performance specialty after attending a Summer Conference in July of 2018. Cory Beahm, Band Director at Martin Luther King Middle School (MLK), attended the training and returned from the conference hitting the ground running! All MLK students, whether experienced musicians or not, were given the opportunity to sign up for the MLK Mariachi Ensemble. The ensemble met at lunch time this past school year, two days each week. They performed at a special Mother’s Day Luncheon, and at their annual Spring Concert both held in May 2019. Audience members were impressed by their MLK Mariachi performance of “Árboles de la barranca.” “The kids were nervous but the audience (parents and teachers) said that was really cool to see this happening at MLK,” said Cory Beahm, Band Director.

The group was opened to all MLK students, which included students with no prior training or experience with instruments or Mariachi. When asked how students began the Mariachi instruction, Mr. Beahm said, “Students began trying out different instruments: trumpet, guitar, guitarron, and violin. They selected the instrument they liked and felt most comfortable playing.” As far as teaching students to sing was concerned, surprisingly students really were not comfortable singing the songs. Some students had a hard time. Most students did not want to sing, especially students in the group who were current band students. Mr. Beahm had to review the pronunciation of words because not all students in the group read or spoke Spanish. Students learned music by rote, the technique recommended in the Mariachi training — rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition). Students also listened to recordings, which helped with understanding and developing the style of the music. The summer training provided the teacher with a resource guide, that included all of the music and the instrumental parts for a Mariachi ensemble. Mr. Beahm is very excited that a class will be offered at MLK for this coming 2019-20 school year. MLK will be the first middle school to offer a Mariachi class in Madera Unified. No audition is required. The class will meet 4th period, every day, and will also include a component that teaches students about the culture and history of Mariachi. Mr. Beahm will attend Level Two of the training for Mariachi Summer of 2019.

Madera Unified is also hiring two additional teachers at the elementary level who will launch their own Mariachi programs at Madison and Washington Elementary Schools. Diego Gonzalez, recent Fresno State graduate, has been hired to teach music in Spanish at Madison Elementary School, in the dual language instruction program. Diego grew up reading, writing and speaking Spanish and is very comfortable with Spanish instruction. He has studied the guitarron privately, with Mariachi Galiciense out of Fresno, and is very excited to attend the summer training for Mariachi. Diego is looking forward to incorporating Mariachi into the traditional music instruction. Adrian Martinez, also a recent Fresno State graduate, was a former member of the Fresno State Mariachi. He is eager to start the program at Washington School. Adrian began his Mariachi training at age 8 at the Mariachi Academy, an afterschool program in Porterville. He later joined the group Fiesta Mexicana, followed by Mariachi Fresno State for four years while attending the university. Although a classically trained saxophone player, as a Mariachi musician, Adrian plays the guitar, and vihuela. Over the years he has participated in multiple competitions, festivals, and gigs throughout California. Adrian remembers attending the Summer Conference years ago as a middle school student, when his Mariachi used to perform at the Conference. Now he will return for the training on the other side of the fence.

Students spent countless hours preparing the summer for the production of “Pirates, the Musical.” Students at Monroe Elementary performed “Pirates, the Musical,” two performances June 26th and 27th, Megan Gerling, Music Teacher at Monore Elementary. The production was well attended and students were able to show, not only their great singing skills, but also their acting ability. What a great opportunity for elementary students to receive theater arts experience.

Students at Desmond Middle spent a part of their summer creating coloring quilts and learning about music, and instruments from different cultures. “The overarching theme in Summer School was diversity around the world,” says Kirstyn Smith, Desmond Summer School Music Teacher. “Music is very diverse as well as very similar. Every culture has drums, every culture has dance and every culture has a string instrument. Look for MUSD Mariachi ensembles performance announcements in School Announcements and other MUSD publications.HEAT


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