Homestead Miami Mariachi Conservatory connects kids to their heritage through music – CBS Miami
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In this week’s Miami Proud, an inspiring and musical trip to southern Miami-Dade, home to a large Mexican American population, including many farm laborers. The Mexican American Council has supported these families since 1984, working to break the cycle of poverty through education and access to the arts.
CBS4 visited the Homestead Miami Mariachi Conservatory after-school program.
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In this class there are beginners, intermediate musicians and a few very accomplished musicians.
Children as young as six learn to read and play music.
Note by note and chord by chord, the incomparable sound of Mariachi music comes to life in this building.
Eddie Garza is the CEO of MAC, which founded the Mariachi program.
âThis is a high level music education in arts education, here at the heart of the farmworker community at the MAC Redland Farm Labor Center Parent Resource Center,â Garza said.
It started in 2015 with the support of the Knight Foundation, for elementary school children, and with the support of the Children’s Trust and other donors, the conservatory is thriving and serving students through high school.
There is no cost to students or families and is led by passionate instructors armed with a range of instruments.
Students first learn the piano, then move on to violin, trumpet, vihuela and guitarron.
It is a labor of love for the members of ‘Los Mora Arriaga’ – the family of Mariachi virtuosos who teach here.
Garza said it would be impossible without them, stating that “they are the essence of our tank”.
And for Garza, the mission is personal.
âI am a proud son of former farm workers – my mom and dad lived here in this community. “
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âIt’s a lot of fun,â said Damian Gallegos, an elementary school student. “I love the guitar because it’s the best thing you can think of.”
High school girls Emily Pedraza and Gimena Arellano have been participating in the program for several years.
Emily plays the trumpet and says it really boosted her confidence. Arellano got a guitar from his father at the age of seven, but was only able to play it after joining this program six years ago.
âI’m really proud of where I’m from and connects more to my culture and that’s something great,â said Arellano.
âIt’s extremely important for us to preserve our culture in order to promote the positivity of what it’s like to be a Mexican American or a Chicano,â Garza said.
âWhen you see the look in the eyes of their parents, their abuelas, grandparents and cousins, the look of joy and the appreciation of the love of their roots, it is beautiful and it really allows us to do more. “
Kids have performed on every stage, from the Day of the Dead celebration to a Super Bowl event and even on the grounds, at a 2020 virtual concert with some really big names.
“As 99% of them have never taken an instrument, let alone read music, to see this group grow, progress, then perform at the Altissimo live with Mana and J Balvin and some of the best artists of this world, it was the best thing that happened in my life besides the birth of my son!
David Velasquez plays the vihuela and is a singer. He loves to play. He cannot stress enough what this program means to him.
“It’s a big impact in my life.”
âIt’s like family here,â Velasquez said.
Right now there are 80 children on the waiting list. The conservatory will soon be moving to a larger location in downtown Homestead, where they plan to expand the program.
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