COLORADO SPRINGS (AP) - The sound explodes through the doors - excited violins, exuberant guitars, intense trumpets.
It's reminiscent of weddings in downtown Trinidad, vacations in Guadalajara, dinner in a Mexican restaurant.
But this is Sproul Junior High School, where Widefield School District 3's mariachi band is practicing for upcoming
The words plastered on the wall behind the students reflect why they play: Music can change the world because it can
That was certainly one of the goals when district coordinator Samantha Davis launched the mariachi band three years
ago. She had been looking for ways to forge cultural understanding among the district's diverse student population and
got the idea at an Imagination Celebration workshop affiliated with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Mariachi is part of some school programs in Pueblo, so several Widefield music teachers visited to learn particulars,and also took workshops at an educators' conference.
The district spent $2,500 to buy 10 guitars - students had violins, cellos and trumpets. They had no trouble gathering
enough students for a band. For the first year, it was only Sproul students, but it has since opened to high school
students, too. Teachers have learned alongside students.
The 15 middle and high school musicians, who gathered recently to practice, are all of that age when a preference for
rock music or hip-hop is more the norm. But they say they love this folk music from Mexico.
One is strumming a fat, round-backed guitar known as a vihuela, another, the deep-sounding guitarron, while two young
singers gamely try to be heard: De colores, de colores, se visten los campos en la primavera."
Both girls say they have almost no Spanish language skills but are picking them up folk song by folk song. This one,they explain, means all the colors, all the colors, how they dress the countryside in spring."
In District 3, about 20 percent of students are Hispanic, and many have grown up with the music at home. In fact,mariachi is a niche sound that is hot nationwide these days as the Hispanic population of the country
There are several mariachi bands in Pueblo and Denver. North Middle School in Colorado Springs School District 11 has
It's a best-seller that never goes away," explains Dan Furzi, a retired Widefield educator who happens to be Italian.
He grew up in Trinidad in southern Colorado, playing trumpet in several professional mariachi bands. His grandson
joined the Widefield group and invited him to watch. He got hooked, and his experience has been valuable to teachers.
He helps conduct and writes arrangements.
Alexander Magalong, a district strings teacher who also helps with the band, has a Filipino background. He was
introduced to the music at a Spanish Mass.
He likes how the program brings diverse students together. It also expands the education of his strings students.
They are used to concert music. This is a different genre," he said.
The students will appear at several Cinco de Mayo celebrations, including at assisted-living facilities and schools in
They also play at some private events.
Their uniforms are black pants and white shirts. The kids wish they could wear the traditional fancy vests and hats,but there is no money for that, Dowdle said.
Her students practice once a week and are enthusiastic.
I like it better than rock," says Pedro Gutierrez, 14, a band member for three years. You can really get into it.
Anything can happen in a song."
He notes that his family roots are in the Dominican Republic, where folk music is different. This was something new."
It was hard learning it at first, he says.
At home he keeps his guitar busy. It's like, play the guitar, do some homework, play the guitar," he says with a
He adds, I like to do a job and get complimented for my work. It's a good feeling to do something well." Darren
Fergins, 13, has been playing mariachi for two years. The hardest part is getting the rhythm down. It's hard staying
But there's another kind of togetherness that is working out just fine.
I've met a lot of friends here and get to know their culture," he says.