Stories » EMCSD’s Popular Mariachi Academy Returns Bigger Than Ever

EMCSD’s Popular Mariachi Academy Returns Bigger Than Ever

El Monte City School District’s (EMCSD) popular Mariachi Academy has returned in grand fashion. Students from all 14 schools can participate and learn the cultural significance of Mariachi and how to play various instruments.
Third to eighth graders are offered to participate in this program to learn the traditional mariachi ensemble of instruments that includes violins, trumpets, guitars, vihuelas, and guitarrones. Taught by award-winning music teachers who possess the teaching skills and desire to work with children to further promote this vibrant art form.
EMCSD’s Mariachi Academy was launched initially in 2018 at Potrero School. “There was a lot of excitement…once the program got underway, the students were all extremely enthusiastic and dedicated,” stated Supervising Potrero Teacher Victor Williams. The program was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay gave EMCSD time to plan a districtwide launch this year.
Students were eager to learn the instruments involved in Mariachi music. “Right now, I’m playing the vihuela, and I just found it interesting because it is a guitar-based instrument,” shared Potrero student Julieta Contreras. Potrero student Anthony Muñez said, “I’ve always loved playing with instruments,” which motivated him to sign up for the program.
Positive life skills are instilled into music education. “Playing a musical instrument builds right and left brain communication and supports language acquisition through learning another language - music. This learning also further develops listening, critical thinking, and problem- solving skills,” voiced Regan Lambert, Music Specialist at Rio Vista and Wright Schools. “Additionally, they gain another way of expressing themselves and social-emotional
development through being involved in a musical group, where each diverse instrument is needed to create the final product.”
Ultimately, this program allows students to connect with their community. “Regardless of the cultural background of the students, exposure to Mariachi music has a meaningful impact on the students,” described Rodolfo Guerrero, Columbia Music Teacher. “For some, the exposure to diversity can foster an appreciation for other cultures, genres of music, and inclusivity. For others, it is about reconnecting.” Mr. Guerrero also shared that Mariachi Academy allows students to reconnect with their Mexican heritage. “Some of the students at our schools are 2nd and 3rd generation Mexican American. This means that their connection to the culture exists, but their exposure to the culture may not always be so direct. The opportunity of performing in a Mariachi ensemble provides meaningful exposure to the culture and helps the students become active promoters and protectors of Mexican and Latin American culture.”
Mariachi Academy is slowly rolling out at every EMCSD campus, and Mr. Williams is excited about its potential, “I think this program impacts students positively in several ways. Learning an instrument can help to boost kids' confidence in themselves. Many times, they find they have talents they didn't realize they had before…being in a program like this creates lasting, fond memories, especially since the music is very culturally relevant to so many of them.”