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.