Scarlett concludes 6-week mariachi music unit with lively assembly

UMS partners with Scarlett art and music teachers to provide a culturally rich experience for students

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

For the past six weeks, all 621 students at Scarlett have been engaged in an interdisciplinary unit about Mariachi Music.

And that explains why the lyrics from one of Mexico’s most beloved folk songs—”Ay, ay, ay, ay! Canta y no llores!”—could be heard throughout the school lately, as students learned how to sing and play the song in their band, orchestra, choir, theater, and music culture classes.

The unit culminated last week with a field trip to Hill Auditorium to see Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán on Thursday and a school-wide assembly featuring over 300 students performing mariachi music on Friday.

Choir teacher Cory Bergman said the whole experience was an incredible opportunity for students that provided school-wide camaraderie.

“The kids’ learning about cultures that are different from theirs and some of them reconnecting with their own culture is an experience they’ll never forget,” he said.

Terri Park, interim vice president, Education & Community Engagement
for University Musical Society, noted that UMS believes the arts are an essential part of every student’s educational experience. 

“We know that participating in the arts builds curious, creative minds,” said Park. “And of course to have the opportunity to collaborate with dedicated and passionate teachers makes it even more rewarding. The performing arts provide a space for self-expression, for inclusion, for learning about the self and about others, of confronting the hard things in life, and finding the joy that makes life worth living.”

In addition to learning about the history, instruments, and culture of Mariachi music, students also designed and painted a “Mariachi Mural” in the Scarlett Cafeteria with UMS teaching artist Elton Monroy Duran, a Mexican-American mural artist known for his murals throughout southwest Detroit.

UMS teaching artist Karilú Forshee, also a Mexico native, worked with students to help students understand the meaning of the song and its important to the Mexican Community. Friday’s assembly began with a poem by Forshee titled “Speaking with an Accent.”

Also on Friday, students participated in workshops with members of the award-winning high school Mariachi group “Mariachi Nuevo Santander” from Roma, Texas. That group performed with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán at Hill Auditorium.

At the end of the assembly, Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez told students that no matter what is going on in the country, Scarlett is a safe place for all students.

“All students are valued members of our Scarlett Nation,” he said. “We want you to know that you, this generation of diverse students, are what makes America great.”

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