NAfME, along with the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation, celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting a reception, honoring the Wenatchee High School Mariachi Program on Capitol Hill the evening of October 12. Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08), who is the Representative for this High School, organized the group’s visit to Washington, D.C. and spoke at the event. Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) also spoke at the event, and Mariachi Huenachi capped off the night with a performance for Congressional Staffers and the public in attendance.
Mariachi Huenachi is the advanced mariachi program at Wenatchee High School, part of the Golden Apple Award winning Wenatchee School District’s Mariachi Music Program that has recently made national headlines being featured on FOX, ABC Networks, and on the CBS Evening News. The group performs annually at dozens of festivals, as well as government and community events in and out of Washington state. The Wenatchee School District’s Mariachi Program has been nationally recognized for being the fastest growing mariachi music program outside of Mexico, currently integrating more than 300 participating students ages 9-18. The program first became popular among Hispanic & Latino students, but every year the program sees increased participation by non-Latino students as well.
Mike Blakeslee, NAfME Executive Director and CEO, delivered his remarks both in Spanish and English, speaking of his personal experiences with Hispanic and Latinx music, and NAfME’s continued mission:
“For me, in particular, it’s an affair of the heart. I lived a little more than three years in South America, where I taught music at the Universidad de Los Andes and the U. Nacional Pedagogica de Colombia. And it was in that time that I came to know the music of the tiple, the bandurria, and the zampona. But it’s more than personal, it central to the mission of NAfME: To advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all. By All. And we have a stated value that is, ‘uplifting the human spirit by providing opportunities for all students to create, perform, respond, and connect to all styles of music.’”
Sarah Trahern, CMA Foundation CEO, highlighted the work of Ramon Rivera, Wenatchee School District’s Mariachi Director. CMA Foundation recently honored Mr. Rivera as one of their CMA Music Teachers of Excellence.
Mr. Rivera has been a strong advocate of music education, and he reminded those in attendance that the band’s visit to Washington, D.C. is to advocate and raise awareness of the benefits of music education. Mr. Rivera worked with Congressman Reichert for almost 3 years to make this trip happen. They were officially invited to Capitol Hill to perform by Congressman Reichert this past May. Mr. Rivera worked tirelessly to fundraise for the trip, needing roughly $32,000 to cover the expenses for his students to travel. Feeling a strong sense of pride in their mariachi group, members of the Wenatchee community helped contribute to make the trip happen. The band spent most of Thursday educating members of Congress and their staff on mariachi and the benefits of a music education, including a very productive meeting with Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI).
The Wenatchee Mariachi High School Mariachi band’s trip is the finest example of raising awareness for the need of music for and by all. Hispanic and Latino heritage is part of the fabric of our country and our music culture. These amazing students played incredible music that lifted the spirits of lawmakers and their staff. But beyond that, they promoted our culture of diversity and the need for every student to receive a quality music education.
You can follow Mariachi Huenachi at www.whsmariachi.org or on social media:
- Facebook – @WenatcheeHighSchoolMariachi
- Twitter – @whsmariachi
- Instagram – @whsmariachi
A full recording of the reception and Mariachi Huenachi’s performance can be found on NAfME’s Facebook page here.
Tooshar Swain, Public Policy Advisor, October 16, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)