Progress update on The Mariachi Miracle

Alfredo Valenzuela with a note from a pupil at Davis Bilingual Elementary School.

Alfredo Valenzuela with a note from a pupil at Davis Bilingual Elementary School.

It’s been a while and so much progress is being made on what is now called The Mariachi Miracle.

Click image to enlarge.

So far over 60 interviews have been conducted for the film, and almost as many events and performances recorded.

There have been some surprises along the way. Although I had covered mariachis in Tucson for better than 30 years one is always bumping up against misconceptions and corrections. But all have been good.

Probably my favorite piece of unexpected knowledge came from Alfredo Valenzuela – aka Mr. V or Dr. V. Valenzuela is the man who created the mariachi program at Davis Bilingual Elementary School some time back. He himself grew up on a ranch in southeastern Arizona, learning the songs of the cowboys that worked the ranch.

He was teaching English at a middle school a while before going to Davis. A birthday for one of the children was coming up and one of the pupils asked if they could all sing happy birthday for her. So Mr. V brought in his guitar, and it was a hit. After that he started bringing his guitar in every now and then and teaching songs to the kids. He wrote the lyrics down on the chalk board, and what he discovered was that it was really helping the kids who were having trouble with reading. They could follow the words as they sang them and better understand English from the experience.

Word got out that he was doing this, and when Davis decided to become a bilingual school, they enlisted Mr. V as a music specialist. Ever humble, he protested that he didn’t know enough about it, and asked if perhaps they might hire someone to teach a bit of violin at the school. Then he asked for a trumpet teacher. And lo and behold, he put it together and created a mariachi program.

The note from that student

The note from that student

Today there’s a waiting list to get your kids into Davis Bilingual, and it’s not just Hspanic families lining up. Bilingual education helps in brain development, as does music making. The latter is particularly important for gain an edge with mathematical, creative and scientific skills. Combine that with the teamwork, discipline, and self reliance that mariachi programs foster and you’ve got the total package of 21st century skills needed to succeed in today’s highly technical workplace.

We’re about to head into what I call mariachi blizzard time. This is that end-of-year time that features final mariachi and folklorico class recitals, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, and high school and college graduations. I’ll be shooting like a madman through mid May, with plenty more to come over the summer. Ballet Folklorico Tapatio is doing a huge folklorico showcase with Mariachi Vargas in June and the granddaddy of youth mariachis – Los Changuitos Feos – will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.

Hoping to meet shortly with Delfina Alvarez, who is the longest serving member of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference board, and one of the pioneers of folklorcio dance in Tucson.

One special thing I’ll be doing on April 25 is filming as the mariachi kids frm White Elementary perform with Los Lobos at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre. Hoping to get a chance to talk with Los Lobos’ Louie Perez about why mariachi education is important everywhere.

We have a huge ways to go and finding funding has been hard. If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation, click here.

Grateful as well for having won the Artist of the Year award at the 2014 Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards. It’s as much a win for this film as for me personally. And while I have to admit I loved being named to the Mariachi Hall of Fame last year even more, it is undeniably a huge honor.

Will try to keep you posted more frequently, particularly in these next few weeks. Hope all of you are doing well!

Alfredo Valenzuela
Alfredo Valenzuela


~ by Daniel Buckley on April 14, 2014.

One Response to “Progress update on The Mariachi Miracle”

  1. Hello, I was wondering if you have had an opportunity to interview the current President of Los Changuitos Feos, his Name is Alex Garcia Sr. he is also a parent of a current member of Los Changuitos Feos, and I do believe he also was a member of Los Changuitos Feos in his youth. The reason I ask is because he has worked hard to keep this organization in tact and in operation, and he may be a good resource of information. I was the President for two years from 2009 – 2011 and before that I was VP and a board member and also a parent before I became and Board member, my son was a member of Los Changuitos Feos from 2003 – 2005 he went on to continue his education at University of Arizona and graduated in 2010. This organization has provided so many scholarships to so many students pursuing higher education and many have graduated and are now in professional jobs and also in professional Mariachi groups. Los Changuitos Feos not only is a music program but also an educational program since on of its purpose is for students to continue higher education. I thank you for all the work you are doing to provide information to the public about the wonderful history of our Mariachi programs in Tucson.

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