With a one..one..two tap of the conductors foot, the Don Mariachi musicians played their hearts out to classic Mexican melodies in preparation for their concert tonight.
In between, conductor and Professor Oscar Garibay corrects them by saying, “Make sure you have good posture, left leg out, elbows out. Let’s try that again.”
After each song, the rest of the group would shout the encouraging “¡Si señor!” and “¡Eso!” The students filled the air with gritos, joyful musical cries packed with emotion.
On this Monday night, the class’s unwavering efforts and passion boomed.
“I’m trying to form a community with the class. Community is something that speaks really deep into Mexican culture, into Mexican heritage,” said Garibay.
The class is shared by SAC and Middle College High School students. The students come from all walks of musical experience, most of whom walked into the class with none.
“Some of them don’t really know how to play guitar, they started learning here,” said Maria Cortes, a third-year student at Cal State Fullerton. “They only have two songs down but they are learning how to put their cords and are learning violin.”
Cortes joined SAC’s Don Mariachi group as a way to keep connecting with her culture. For students like Cortes, mariachi has flowed into every part of her life. “Mariachi music was something that I always heard around my family. I heard it everywhere, it’s something I’ve grown to love,” said Cortes.
As a pioneer for mariachi education, Garibay’s passion for mariachi music started in college. “The way it spoke to my heritage, the way it woke me to realize that my roots are rich. My roots are actually very beautiful,” he said.
Garibay is now creating a pipeline as a music teacher in SAUSD, Nova Academy and as of last semester, SAC.
“I want everyone to know that Santa Ana is the hub for mariachi education,” said Garibay.
In between melodies, he would remind them to listen to each other and keep in harmony. With a prideful grin, Garibay recorded his students as they strung their instruments and corrected their posture.
“That’s why I teach,” he continued.
“It’s a burst of joy to see my students grow and continue playing,” said Garibay. “I think we are doing pretty good, last year we had a really strong ensemble. However, I think this year we are doing even better.”