For the first time in Sonoma County, boys and girls danced Mexican folkloric ballet, while another group of children played live mariachi music to celebrate the end of the fifth edition of the Luther Burbank Center summer camp in Santa Rosa.
José Soto, a mariachi instructor at the camp and a recent graduate of Sonoma State University, noted that it is quite unusual to see a live mariachi performance with Mexican baile folclórico in the North Bay, and even more than it is performed by teenagers.
“You don’t see it often. It’s very difficult to do it at par, but we have practiced a lot and it’s something that we are going to integrate until we have the mariachi and ballet together so that we can go out and support the community like we know,” said Soto a few days before the kids big presentation in front of their parents at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts this past Friday.
In addition to introducing dance classes to the summer camp this year, they also incorporated a harp to the violins, trumpets, guitars and guitarrones (a large bass guitar.) “Little by little, we are continuing the tradition of Mexican music,” said Soto, who is also a member of Mariachi Barragán.
This musical experience has made days much more harmonious for Lorenzo Rivera Jiménez, a 10-year-old boy who has been fond of playing the guitar since the age of 5, but now practices at home with his sister, who plays the violin. Both are participants of the summer camp.
“I like to play the guitar, it makes me feel relaxed. We can take the instruments home and my sister and I can practice the songs we are taught here,” said Lorenzo.
His favorite musical genre is mariachi, he said, more than any other style. His favorite song is ‘Mariachi Loco’ but he likes to play it, more than listening to it, because “it’s fun”.
The free summer classes allow low- income students from Santa Rosa school district to access all the materials necessary for their artistic expression: instruments for musicians, costumes for dancers, paint for visual artists, as well as instructors.
Xóchilt, who preferred not to share her last name, 14 years old and a student at Roseland Collegiate Prep, said that she finds another part of herself when painting, but that she can’t do it at home because “it’s very expensive”.
“It’s cool to be able to do this because we don’t get to do this at school. Society makes it feel as if art is not a great thing, and that you shouldn’t do it because it distracts you from work and educational goals,” said Xóchilt, as she gave life to a colorful skull arranged on a tray.
Luther Burbank Center’s summer program is not exclusive to Santa Rosa, they’ve already taught three weeks of mariachi lessons in Northern Sonoma County, in Cloverdale. This Monday, they also started mariachi workshops with Soto at El Verano School. By the end of this fifth year of the summer camp, in total, some 230 children will have participated in the program.
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