News Column

Sweet mariachi sounds

April 27, 2014

By Lindsay Weaver, Odessa American, Texas



April 27--There's nothing quite like performing to a big crowd, if you ask Ector Junior High ninth-grader Kevin Quintana.

He and dozens of other students in the mariachi band at Ector are readying for their showcase performance during Fiesta West Texas's Cinco De Mayo parade on May 3.

"It feels awesome to be on stage. To be up there. You don't really know what to expect, then the crowd gets into it and it's amazing," Quintana said.

In a recent rehearsal, Quintana, and the rest of mariachi teacher Alberto Madrid's ensemble (about 30 were playing during this class period) played a few selections that one might ear during the festivities next week. Quintana, a violinist, also sings as does his classmate Natali Soto, who plays guitar as well.

They tried "La Bikina" and "Serenata Huasteca." Each teenager was dressed in the traditional mariachi garb: a three-piece black suit or dress, a loose bright blue tie, short boots (or Converses). There weren't any wide-brimmed sombreros today.

This year the Ector County Independent School District purchased brand-new "trajes" or uniforms for the 238 students at Ector. Students still must earn the right to wear the trajes, Madrid said.

Madrid has been teaching mariachi in the Ector County Independent School District for 14 years, starting that program and guitar at Odessa High School. He also is the mariachi director for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

The music is much the same, and the kids, well the kids are why Madrid stays in school.

"I love this age group. When they're developing their skills and begin to mature at this age," Madrid said.

If you don't catch them at the Cinco De Mayo parade on May 3, Ector Junior High's mariachi will play their annual concert 6 p.m.May 15 in the theater. Through large-scale performances in front of hundreds of people, the students are building on their character and music skills.

"There are a lot professional musicians who may never experience that in their lifetime," Madrid said about playing to large audiences. "It gives them lots of confidence. They are prepared to sound good and look good," Madrid said.

The myth that follows the word "mariachi" is that it has native roots that possibly are derived from the wood used to make the platform where performers danced to music of village musicians, according to mariachi.org.

Ensembles are often six to eight, but for the students at Ector Junior High and Odessa High School it's quite a crowd. At Ector they play classical guitar, violin, trumpet, and the more traditional Mexican mariachi instruments like the vihuela, (a small acoustic guitar) and the guitarron (a large, deep-bodied guitar). The music itself is the heart and soul of Mexico as some mariachi musicians describe: the brilliance of diverging sounds.

As students stood side-by-side ready to perform last week, Madrid exercised a note of confidence in the group. Even though it produced a few groans.

"No warm-ups! It's gonna sound great," Madrid said.

--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.

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(c)2014 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

Visit the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) at www.oaoa.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Odessa American (TX)


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