Ending school day on traditional note

Third place, feature writing

Mariachi+band

Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash

The bell signaling the end of sixth period rings, and 10 DHS students rush over to DaVinci Charter Academy where they have their final class of the day: Mariachi Band.

For many of those students, it’s the highlight of their school day; they get to express themselves musically, connect to their culture and family history, all while surrounded by some of their closest friends.

The band consists of 14 students, two-thirds of whom are from DHS, the rest from DaVinci.

During class, students stand in a semicircle, organized by instrument. They take their music seriously but they aren’t afraid to joke around with each other. It’s clear the group spends a lot of time together.

“It’s more of a family than just a class.” ”

— junior Alondra Sanchez Diaz

The band calls themselves Mariachi Del Valle, meaning from the valley, fitting for a band from Davis.

The class got off the ground two years ago, thanks to the efforts of dedicated parents Hiram and Ximena Jackson who started the district affiliated after school club, Mariachi Puente, in 2012. Students who want to be in the club must be enrolled in a music class through the school.

“Ximena and Hiram Jackson, two parents of students in the school district, saw kids of Hispanic origin in Davis become disconnected with music and that made them sad. Mariachi is enormously important in Hispanic families…so Hiram and Ximena started Mariachi Puente,” Thomas Slabaugh, director of Mariachi Del Valle said.

The club is open to kids in elementary school all the way to high school, over the years it grew so much that kids were at drastically different places in their abilities and it became difficult to challenge them equally.

“They had these really high achieving students and these beginning students. And the high achieving students were all getting into high school and so they said ‘well what do you guys think? Can we try a class?’” Slabaugh said.

The Jackson’s and several students campaigned at board meetings to get the district to create a Mariachi class. DaVinci junior Aaron Montalvo sat in on several board meetings to help make the vision a reality.

“I didn’t talk [at the meetings] because I was very nervous, but I think having everyone there who cared about mariachi was enough to show the district that this class actually means something and that we want something for not just us but for everyone in the community to enjoy,” Montalvo said.

Sure enough, the board agreed to create a class at DaVinci that DHS students could also attend.

Mariachi is different from other music classes because of the pressure it puts on students to show up to all performances and memorize their pieces.

“[You have to] have it memorized because [for] all the performances there is no sheet music,” Sanchez Diaz said.

If one person doesn’t show up to a performance, it throws off the entire group.

“You need everybody there and if you have somebody missing like if you have a guitarrón missing you’re in trouble. There’s a lot of individual responsibility on the players because there’s only one in the trumpet section, and the guitarrón and even in the armarillo usually we’re only one per part. Without it, the sound falls away,” Slabaugh said.

The band performs at a variety events, most recently at the DaVinci Chile Cook Off, and are currently preparing a mariachi twist on Christmas songs for the Davis Tree Lighting Ceremony.

One of the most important parts of a mariachi band are the trajes de charroThey are the suits worn by mariachi musicians and are considered a great honor.

“They wear what’s called a traje which means suit but it’s a traje de charro. It’s a cowboy suit. They wear bow tie moños, belts, sashes and certain kinds of boots. We have personalized trajes, patches that go on the shoulder and stuff like that. And the moños are embroidered with Mariachi Del Valle,” Slabaugh said.

The trajes rack up an expensive bill, currently being paid for by the district.

“The cheap ones that we have are over $300. Many groups will have custom embroidered ones with hand stitching across them and stuff like that. Those get into like $900-2000,” Slabaugh said.

They don’t have sombreros because they are mostly decorative and cost another $200.

“The trajes are one of the greatest parts of being in the class because you just become a part of everything,” Sanchez Diaz said.

For those involved, mariachi gives students a community and friends that they can connect with on a whole different level.

“Before mariachi I didn’t have as many friends, and now that I’m in it I have so many friends that share the same passion of music that I do,” junior Danny Vasquez said.