Documentary ‘American Creed’ premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 27

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The documentary, “American Creed,” featuring personal stories of what it means to be American will premiere on Arizona PBS on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.

One of the stories in the documentary is on Studio Mariposa, the group of Arizona musicians who travel across the border to teach young kids how to play music and do crafts. The full interview was first played on “Horizonte” two weeks ago. The following was first published here.

Studio Mariposa brings Arizona musicians across the border to teach kids in the small town of Naco, Sonora how to play in a band.

Gretchen Baer founded Studio Mariposa eight years ago, and describes the program as a place where “art transcends music.” Baer travels with her fellow musicians to Bisbee, Arizona twice a week to teach music and engage the local youth in the arts.

“We kind of just let them have fun and teach them how to channel it into something structured, but we try not to do too much structure because it’s nice to have some surprises out there,” Lead Instructor Mike Montoya says.

Not only is it a learning experience for the kids but for the adults, as well. Montoya says the kids have taught him a lot, including how to speak Spanish. Baer says it’s a great opportunity to learn that we’re all people, and something like a border won’t stop us from caring about each other.

It’s a unique experience for the kids because the education is free for them. Paying for music lessons is a rare event in town. After school, they go to where they usually meet up and they jam. It’s a place for them to stop think about school and everything else.

“They are good people because there are some from the U.S. who won’t do this,” Alexis, a Mariposa band member, says. “They’re not like these people who teach us and are kind to us.”

In addition to the music, the kids are also taught to do arts and crafts and other activities that keep them thinking creatively. Eric Kruske, a musician from Bisbee, says the kids light up the second they arrive. Once a kid shows up once, it’s likely that they’ll keep showing up. Kruske says what keeps him and other musicians coming back is the rewarding feeling they are left with after making the kids happy.

All of the instruments and materials are donated. For more information on the project go here.

For more information on the documentary, “American Creed,” go here.

TED SIMONS: TONIGHT WE START A NEW SERIES IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PBS DOCUMENTARY "AMERICAN CREED," FEATURING PERSONAL STORIES OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN. PRODUCER ADRIANA DE ALBA TRAVELED TO THE BORDER TOWN OF NACO, SONORA, WHERE ONE AMERICAN IS PROVING THAT WALLS ARE NOT BARRIERS FOR ART.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: In the small border town of Naco, 13-miles south of Bisbee, Arizona, a weekly visit means a chance to escape. Years ago teaching music to Mexican children along the border was just a dream. Now that vision has come to life thanks to Bisbee-based artist Gretchen Baer.

GRETCHEN BAER: Just being right here along the border, it's a special place in kind of a way and these kids are kind of special kids, or at least I think so.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: For the children living in this town, an opportunity like this is hard to come by. Many of the families here struggle to make ends meet. Music lessons are not usually a priority. It's beyond my imagination, he says. When I was young they bought me a drum set and I always played it. Not only is this a chance to feel the base, it's also a place to be just a kid after a long day in the classroom.

MIKE MONTOYA: We kind of just let them have fun, and teach them to channel it into something structured. We try not to do too much structure because it's kind of cool to have surprises happen. That's why I like it.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: Mike Montoya is the lead instructor and a musician by night who never thought he would find a purpose on the other side of the border.

MIKE MONTOYA: As Americans coming over here, we’re learning a lot from them. I learned a lot of Spanish coming here. They taught me a lot.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: Beyond learning how to strum a guitar, the lessons here go deeper.

ALEXIS THROUGH ADRIANA DE ALBA: They are good people, he says, because there are some from the U.S. who won't do this. They are not like these people who teach us and are kind to us.

ERIC KRUSKE: I know that we all light up when we are here. Everybody here comes down again and again and we all keep coming back. The rewards are really, that it feels so good to help these kids.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: The port of entry here in Naco is fluid. It usually takes less than five minutes to get to the Mexican side of the border which makes it easy for the musicians to visit the children twice a week. The U.S.-Mexico border is often thought of firmly dividing two nations but with people coming and going everyday, it flows more like a river.

GRETCHEN BAER: The border wall doesn't stop people from caring for each other. It doesn't stop kids from being kids, or loving to make music together.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: Gretchen started this project eight years ago. It extended into a mile long statement about what happens when art transcends politics.

GRETCHEN BAER: This is a way to take something that has a lot of negativity, and turn it into something positive. We are able to through the kids, take a wall that separates people and bring people together.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: That vibrant stretch of the border wall was torn down to make way for an upgraded fence. That came coincidentally after then candidate's Trump's message that a wall is needed to separate the U.S. from Mexico. Gretchen refused to let the noise dim her desire to bridge two nations.

I started it from complete political distress for our country and it grows out of that. It's a feeling of love, you know? Spreading the love to wherever you can. This has been a great place to do it.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: Two days a week there are music lessons, art instruction and a chance to just release.

MIKE MONTOYA: I’ve kind of learned to let go and let things go with the flow. Things blossom out of it.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: When I get out of school, I come straight here, he says. For many artists and musicians, a final product is the goal. Here, it's the journey that brings them back.

ERIC KRUSKE: As long as they like me coming around to help them to show them songs and different things, I'll be here. I want to be involved with the kids. It's happening so quickly that every week, it's change.

ADRIANA DE ALBA: The immediate plan is to grow the band, record original music and sell C.D.s, but the underlying hope for the project is to expand beyond the dusty streets of Naco.

GRETCHEN BAER: I hope our project inspires other people to just cross over. It's okay on the other side. In fact, it's really nice over here. It's colorful. The people are warm and loving. There is a lot of laughter. The kids are great. What's not to love?

Gretchen Baer: Artist and Founder, Studio Mariposa
Mike Montoya: Lead instructor and musician, Studio Maiposa
Eric Kruske: Bisbee Musician
Alexis: Mariposa Band Membe

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