New ASU Mariachi Training Program

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This week, ASU and Rosie’s House, a music academy for children, launched a new mariachi training program. Ruben Hernandez, a member of the ASU Mariachi Committee, and Kimberly Marshall, Director of the ASU School of Music, talk about the partnership.

Jose Cardenas: This week, Arizona State University and Rosie'S house, a music academy for children launched a new mariachi training program. The program will be taught by professor Jeff Nevin, a world-class mariachi performer will teach at Arizona State University in the spring. With me to talk about this partnership is Ruben Hernandez, a member of the ASU mariachi committee member. Also here is Kimberly Marshall, director of the Arizona State University School of Music. Kimberly, thanks for joining us. Let's talk very quickly about this relationship between the school of music and Rosie's house.

Kimberly Marshall: We thought it would be very important to have a fine mariachi program at the school of music. It's one of the finest schools in the country and we have fabulous instrumentalists and a real need for this type of program. Our local schools are calling out for it. So we have made the decision to have a fine course in mariachi studies. We've brought in a wonderful professor --

Jose Cardenas: He'll be working with some of the young people we see on the screen right now?

Kimberly Marshall: He will and his graduate students will be working even more directly with him. So Jeff is teaching a course in mariachi studies at ASU and Rosie's house has just launched their own mariachi program for students ages 12 to 18. And so many of the mariachis at ASU are going to be working with these young people, helping to keep them the different instruments and, of course, the many styles of mariachi playing. So it's a partnership, it's a way that the school of music at the university is working with the community to help foster a mariachi culture.

Jose Cardenas: Give us just a real quick overview of who Jeff Nevin is and how he came to be at ASU.

Kimberly Marshall: He grew up in Tucson. He always pursued his love of mariachi, but he also got a degree in composition. He came to the ASU school of music for a master's in music theory and then went on to achieve a Ph.D. in composition at the university of California in San Diego. And all the while, developing a very important connection with the world of mariachi, touring all over the world really. And he set up the first A.B. program in mariachi in the country just outside San Diego and so we were able to bring our alum back to start our own mariachi program at the school of music.

Jose Cardenas: And it will be one of only about two programs like this in the country.

Kimberly Marshall: Oh, really, there are no programs that have an undergraduate concentration in mariachi right now. It's really very, very unique. And we're looking to create whole communities of support in different ways because it's possible for nonmusic majors to study mariachi, also for community members to sign up for some of these programs and the response has been tremendous.

Jose Cardenas: Kimberly, thanks for that overview. Reuben, how did you get involved in this effort? You've been around the community a long time, you know mariachi. What was it that got you involved in this particular effort?

Ruben Hernandez: Knowing Kimberly and knowing that I am very active in the arts and culture arena of the community, when we were putting our heads together and saying how can we bring a mariachi program that's world-class to ASU? One of the things we decided to do and that I advised was let's get some Latino professors at ASU involved. So we got Carlos Ibanez.

Jose Cardenas: Head of the transborder school of studies.

Ruben Hernandez: He's the director, and Paul Espinosa at the school also. Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a professor of mathematical biology at ASU and a friend of Kimberly's and we invited the owner of Mario cafe who had expressed an interest in helping because she's an avid community arts and culture activist herself.

Jose Cardenas: Why would it be important to have this in an academic setting? We're in the southwest, we have a border with Mexico, there are mariachis everywhere. You have the annual mariachi conference and so forth. Why this need? What need do you think this fills?

Ruben Hernandez: Particularly here in the valley, we didn't have a world-class university-level mariachi curriculum and Jeff brings that very unique quality to ASU by agreeing to be an adjunct professor. He's employed at southwest college near San Diego concurrently but he's here at ASU and we felt that due to the controversies of S.B. 1070 and the political atmosphere, which was very hostile some said to the Latino community that to bring a mariachi world-class program here would be a point of pride to the Latino community to show them that ASU is not just a white ivory tower but that it is, in fact -- wants to be embedded in the local community and in particular the Latino community.

Jose Cardenas: As I understand it, despite his Anglo last name and he is Anglo, Jeff is a pretty hot commodity within the mariachi performing world. In fact, he's currently on his way to Mexico city to perform there?

Ruben Hernandez: Exactly and he is. He's also a composer and he's had a couple of previous concerts that I've been to at ASU. One with some of the ASU school of music faculty who do composing, doing some of their original compositions and kind of meshing that with his mariachi music. And also just a mariachi concert for the ASU community and the valley Latino community that was free.

Jose Cardenas: What do we expect to come from this? We've got Jeff and he'll be on campus next semester and I understand enrollment was doubled than what had been anticipated? Where do you expect it to go from there?

Ruben Hernandez: Jeff will also be sharing teaching duties between the school of music and the transborder studies school. Carlos Ibanez arranged that so that his students could be served by this expert in Latino music, if you will, as well as having the mariachi program there. So it actually is a twofer. You have him working at the school of music, you have him working with the transborder studies program and everybody, all the students have both benefited and the community benefits.

Jose Cardenas: And there's a desire ultimately to have the students who graduate from the program and I realize this is just an area of specialty, they're music students but to have them go out into the schools and do the same kinds of things with other groups that are going on with Rosie's house.

Ruben Hernandez: That was part of the vision of bringing a world-class mariachi instructor here to ASU was to have that instructor in a sense plant seeds in the local schools and in the -- and in particular the Latino-led nonprofits to create their own mariachi music programs so that more and more students can be -- can learn about their culture through the music, you know. This is building bridges between the cultures and bridges of understanding through music and that was one of the actual goals of the vision that we had and that has manifested. We plan to see this program progress as we get more sustainable funding through the years and the graduates from the ASU mariachi program to go ahead and themselves teach in the community also. So it multiplies the effect of qualified teachers in our community.

Jose Cardenas: Reuben, one last question or topic area. Going back to this issue of funding and Rosie's house, they've got some funding for this initial effort but there's a lot more to do to get the instruments and other things that they need to make this program a success.

Ruben Hernandez: Fundraising both at the school of music and Rosie's house are crucial to sustain this program. Right now, they're targeting 50 students for the Rosie's house program. They would love to have 300 students. But the obstacle comes in from having enough instruments so they're looking for financing buy more instruments and it's a non-tuition program at Rosie's house so that extra funding will allow more students to have non-tuition training. If people want to donate, they can go on the Internet and they'll get some information about that. It's You can connect to the website that way and to the organization and it has information there that the whole audience can learn from and connect with Rosie's house.

Jose Cardenas: Thanks for joining us to talk about this wonderful program. Much appreciated.

Ruben Hernandez: Pleasure.

Jose Cardenas: That's our show for this Thursday evening. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good night.

Ruben Hernandez:ASU Mariachi Committee; Kimberly Marshall:Director, ASU School of Music;

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