Students from St. Anne School’s bourgeoning mariachi program sharpened their skills and had fun while doing so during their recent visit to a summer program at Santa Ana College.
SR. TERESA LYNCH, PRINCIPAL OF ST. ANNE SCHOOL IN SANTA ANA, SHARES A LAUGH WITH HER STUDENTS ON AUG. 2. PHOTOS BY DREW KELLEY/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Thanks to the generous Brady Family of San Juan Capistrano, who covered the registration fees, 26 young musicians from grades three through eight participated in the 2023 José Hernández Mariachi Nationals and Summer Institute, which began on July 31 and continued through Aug. 6. The children from the Santa Ana parish school strengthened their mariachi talents with workshops while performing in front of other students from near and far.
This year was St. Anne’s first time participating in the institute. The school’s mariachi program started last September after a music teacher suddenly quit. That left Principal Sr. Teresa Lynch, CSJ thinking she needed to fill the gap of an otherwise robust music program.
Sr. Teresa envisioned offering mariachi. She knew the traditional musical style would pique the interest of the community and complement the Mexican heritage of its student body. The children sing the Spanish lyrics and play one of five instruments: violin, vihuela, guitarrón, guitar or trumpet.
“I thought, ‘This is an opportunity,’” Sr. Teresa said. “I wanted something reflective of our students, so I put it out in a newsletter for signups, thinking maybe 12 to 15 would sign up. I had 64 the next day on my desk.”
Currently, the program has about 60 participants. Jorge Ordiano, a local musician who plays at various Diocese of Orange parishes, serves as director.
“It’s been an exciting time here,” he said. “The kids are learning.”
Ordiano added that it’s good for the children to learn the deeply held traditions of mariachi; it expands their interests beyond the music trends of today.
Amber Montero, 12, is an upcoming seventh-grader in both places who’s learning violin.
“Things have been going good,” she said of the program. “I think mariachi is a very fun thing that I can do to advance my knowledge about my culture.”
Vihuela players Carissa Diaz, 11, and MaryAnne Gallardo, 12, said they loved learning more about mariachi at Santa Ana College.
“It keeps me busy over the summer,” said Carissa, who’s starting sixth grade in the fall. “I love the culture. It’s just really enjoyable.”
Gallardo, who will be a seventh-grader, commented that music is a welcome addition to her life. “When I’m bored and I don’t want to watch TV, I have something else to do. I practice all the songs, so I don’t make a mistake when we’re performing.”
Sr. Teresa said her student body is learning music for the first time. The kids don’t necessarily come from musically inclined families.
The parents, though, “They cry when they hear their kids sing. It’s beautiful tradition.”