Playing the guitarrón will soon be a part of Santa Monica student curriculum.

A soon-to-be-launched mariachi pilot program was discussed at the Thursday, October 18 SMMUSD school board meeting. Beginning Tuesday, January 8, 2019, mariachi will be integrated into Edison Middle School as a pilot program in an after school class and eventually branch out to other schools in a staggered, years-long plan.

Tom Whaley, SMMUSD Visual and Performing Arts coordinator, said the program is an attempt to be more “culturally aware of our students and finding ways to connect with our students.”

The program seeks to provide Spanish speaking English learners with a familiar setting as well as to provide other students of various ethnicities “an exceptional educational experience that would expand their cultural awareness and promote a lifelong appreciation for music.”

Whaley said overarching goals for the program will be providing equity, engagement, collaboration, diversity and civility in their curriculum. Mariachi students will sing and play mariachi instruments of their choosing as well as learn the historical development of mariachi music.

Whaley acknowledged that the district originally attempted a somewhat hastily planned mariachi program a decade ago but couldn’t drum up enough interest amongst students.

This time, however, with extensive planning and funding ($22k from the City), Whaley and the district feel confident about participation.

The implementation timeline presented noted a mariachi performance to initially drum up interest before Edison’s first class, a survey to parents and students, and then the first round of classes. After more professional development amongst staff (music teachers received a week of mariachi training from Music Education Consultants Inc. thus far), the program will launch in Fall 2019 at JAMS and Edison.

Board reception to the presentation was positive, with all speaking board members applauding the program.

Some questions remained, such as anticipating possible challenges. Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati asked if there’d be a possibility students may have trouble playing the instruments. Whaley assured that participating teachers will be certified in instrument instruction from a “mariachi guru”.

Board member Jon Kean called the program a great beginning “for students at Edison”, saying he’d like to see more cultural awareness “in an honest, real, and engaging way” at other schools as well.

Oscar de la Torre lauded the program and asked for additional cultural programs to further engage students, such as integrating hip hop culture into future curriculum.

The Mariachi Program Timeline:

Intro to Mariachi– Edison January 8, 2019 3:30- 4:30 p.m.

Beginning Mariachi– JAMS Fall 2019

Armonia– JAMS September 2019

Melodia– JAMS September 2019

Mariachi Ensemble– JAMS September, 2020

Mariachi Ensemble II– JAMS, September, 2021

Mariachi Ensemble III– JAMS, September 2022

SAMOHI Mariachi Ensemble– 2023, 2024, 2025

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