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Mariachi band adds festive cultural tradition to music program

Students hope to perform in community


The sounds of the violin, vihuela, flute, guitar, guitarrón and trumpet are coming together in traditional song, complete with upbeat Spanish vocals, at Wyoming High School, where a new mariachi band is bringing a festive feel to the music program.

The traditional Mexican band, made up of high school and junior high students, had its debut performance at the district’s Fine Arts Festival in March. The group serenaded visitors with the songs “Canta, Canta, Canta” by musician Jose Alfredo Jimenez; and “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional birthday song sung in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Mariachi bands are typically hired to play songs requested from the audience. While the Wyoming band hasn’t quite reached that point, they are hopeful to soon play at restaurants, community events and festivals. They also hope to eventually get traditional costumes, which include ornamented jackets and sombreros.

Striking an impressive pose are, from left, freshman Steven Jimenez, sophomore Ower Sales, sophomore Leo Matias, sophomore Omar Zavala, seventh-grader German Cortes, sophomore Hunter Truax and eighth-grader Danely Alvarado

Band director Jane Detweiler wanted to start the mariachi band to give Hispanic students a way to perform traditional music

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Trumpeter Ower Sales, a sophomore who helped start the band, said he was intrigued by the idea of bringing Mexican music to the school music scene. “Starting a high school mariachi band would help spread diversity and culture to other people,” he said.

Wyoming Public Schools’ diverse enrollment includes a large percentage of Hispanic students. Band director Jane Detweiler said she wanted to give them a chance to show off the rich flavor of their traditional music. “I felt it was very important that they could learn music from their own culture,” she said.

Students were excited to get involved. “I grew up around this music and wanted to learn to play it,” said sophomore Steven Jimenez, a trumpeter.

Eighth-grader Danely Alvarado is the mariachi band flutist

“I wanted to expand my genre of musical experience and learn something different,” said sophomore Hunter Truax, who plays the violin.

“It just brings out our culture and who we are,” added Danely Alvarado, an eighth-grade flutist.

Detweiler said it’s been fun learning songs with the students and being part of the culture. The band rehearses weekly.

“I love being in that culture,” Detweiler said. “We have a great family.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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