Don’t Know Which End of a Guitarrón Is Up? MENC Offers a New Mariachi Book

For one month in 2007, William Gradante acted as mariachi mentor for MENC’s online community of music educators. Many of the questions he received were from music educators with fledgling mariachi programs at their schools.

“Where can I find arrangements, uniforms, etc.?” “How do I teach violin, guitar, or trumpet?” “What is the basic repertoire?”

Gradante has taught mariachi and classical guitar in Fort Worth, Texas, since 1980, so he is well-qualified to answer questions of that kind.

However, Gradante and other members of MENC’s National Mariachi Advisory Committee believe that even longtime mariachi educators and proponents will learn from the new resource, Foundations of Mariachi Education: Materials, Methods, and Resources.

Gradante edited the new book, which MENC and Rowman & Littlefield Education (RLE) copublished. Members of the advisory committee wrote the chapters, which include “Starting a Mariachi Program” by Noé Sánchez and “Teaching the Beginning Guitarrón” by John Vela.

The book also includes a chapter from Marcia Neel and Javier Trujillo, who wrote about “Mariachi Education as a District Initiative: Development of the Clark County School District Program” in Las Vegas, Nevada. That chapter describes in detail how that school district implemented a new mariachi program.

Daniel Sheehy wrote the foreword. He is director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Gradante, who teaches at J.P. Elder Middle School and North Side High School in Fort Worth, spends his weekends as a professional mariachi musician. In an interview, he discussed how close he is to his students and their families. In some cases he’s now teaching the children of former students. The music, he says, reflects the culture and history that students and their families share.

“Anyone who is interested in teaching mariachi, from beginners to longtime teachers, will learn something from this book,” Gradante said. “I have been teaching for a long time and even I learned a ton of useful stuff.”

The book is available in cloth (list price, $70) and paper (list price, $29.95). MENC members receive a 25-percent discount. Visit  the RLE Web site for more information, including reviews of the book and the table of contents, or to order.


Roz Fehr, April 18, 2008, © MENC: The National Association for Music Education