Twenty-two Delhi High School students have formed a mariachi band, connecting music education to the cultural history of the community, according to educators.
Planning for the mariachi ensemble started last fall when educators visited Lincoln High School in San Jose, according to Adolfo Melara, superintendent of the Delhi Unified School District. The band started playing together in January in Delhi, a community that is 75 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census.
“Through hard work, a lot of research and perseverance, we have created a fledgling mariachi band and we’re very proud of them,” Melara said in a news release. “Their first performance was at our March board meeting and it was an incredible success.”
The district spent about $15,000 for violins, guitars and trumpets for the group, according to Melara. “It’s a class, not a club. Part of the music program," he said. "We want students’ education to be relevant to their experience. I thought it was a way to connect music programs to students in the community."
Matthew Wellman, who directs the mariachi band, volunteered for the job when the original teacher left his position. Fifteen of the players are seniors and are enrolled in the elective ensemble. Wellman, whose taught for 15 years, also plays trumpet with the group.
“It’s a blast. These talented kids rose to the occasion and the community seems really excited. It’s been a learning experience for everyone,” Wellman said in the news release.
The musicians have performed at Delhi’s multicultural festival, the Local Control and Accountability Planning meeting and the medical science graduation ceremony, the release said.
Merced College trustee Joe Gutierrez of Los Banos has actively tried to promote other mariachi groups in schools, and organizes mariachi concerts in Los Banos.
“This is history. They are the first high school in Merced County ever to have a mariachi band," he said in the news release. "You should see the pride in the parents. For the short time they have been together they’re doing great."