California college educates students about mariachi music

CHULA VISTA, California – Dating from the 18the century, mariachi music has captured hearts. However, it was only recently that a person could get a college degree specializing in Mexican-style music.

Throughout the pandemic, the Torres family have formed their own mariachi band. At each performance, they prove what Mexican folk music is.

“What mariachi means to me… man, it means family, it means community,” said Mario Torres, the father.

“I love playing with my family so much because I think it’s so beautiful that we can share this music with each other,” said Melanie Torres.

“Now our ensemble has nine musicians and in a year and a half we launched the academy,” said Mario.

There is one person, in particular, the family thanks for their cooperation in educating students of all ages about mariachi. That person is Jeff Nevin. He is a music teacher and director of mariachi activities at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California.

“We were able to implement mariachi in many local schools, raise funds and provide scholarships for these children so that they can go to college after graduation,” Nevin said. “I was not born Mexican, my family is Russian, Irish, Swedish and I was born in Chicago but grew up in Tucson, Arizona. And when I was 15, a total coincidence, someone m ‘saw with my trumpet, I was playing in my school orchestra. And they said,’ Hey, we’re looking for a trumpeter and it turned out to be a mariachi.

Years later, the quorum president approached him with an idea.

“It was his idea to have a college degree in mariachi and literally when he told me I said I don’t think you know what you are asking for and said he no college degree in mariachi music. anywhere in the world they don’t have them in mexico. and i said but if thats what you want i will absolutely do it for you Nevin said. “We graduated from California Community Colleges in 2004 and it was the first college degree anywhere in the country.”

Since then, they have inspired other colleges to create their own associates and licensing degrees for mariachi, filling a significant void.

“I recognize that there is a huge need for Mariachi teachers across the country,” Nevin said. “So there are music teachers who don’t know anything about Mariachi or there are Mariachi people who never went to college and did not graduate.”

This problem is slowly diminishing as more students graduate from the program, students like Daniel Chavez.

“I want to teach it. Teach it if I get the chance and why not keep playing, “Chavez said.” Yes, I graduated last semester. “

He crosses the border from Mexico to California on his way to school and rehearse.

“You understand that there is a program, that there is a kind of education that is done better in the United States than sometimes even in Mexico,” said Chavez.

The degree created new possibilities for her future.

“I can see the expressions of people who really like it and it’s really satisfying. It’s really hot, ”Chavez said.

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