Sharing the beat

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rosa Palma, playing a viola, and Deyvid Lopez, playing the violin, rehearse with the Austin High School mariachi band Tuesday evening. -- Eric Johnson/

Austin mariachi band to play at educators’ conference

The sound of mariachi will ring out in Minneapolis this Friday, thanks to some innovative Austin students.

The Austin High School mariachi band will demonstrate their skills at the annual Minnesota Music Educators Association Midwinter Conference.

Jacob Burkhart rehearses with the AHS mariachi band in the orchestra room of the annex Tuesday afternoon.

“I was willing to share what I’ve learned and what we were doing here,” said band teacher Tim Davis.

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Davis formed the band in January 2010 at Ellis Middle School, after educators saw in increase in students of color but few additions to the school band and orchestra. Since then, the group has performed at the Ellis Expo as well as the Austin’s Taste of Nations and in Albert Lea, though members have had participation issues like any other student activity. Davis decided to focus the band on high school-level music once several members started ninth grade this year.

The group is made up of eight high school students this year, many of whom joined the band when it started. Students like ninth-graders Veronica Bravo, Rosa Palma, and Yesenia Ortiz take pride in the experience and watching it grow.

“We didn’t have this many people before,” Bravo said.

Many of the songs the band plays are standards, whether it’s the popular “Cielito Lindo” or “De Colores,” both recognizable and popular Latin standards.

Veronica Bravo gets her viola ready to play as Austin High School's mariachi band rehearses in the background Tuesday evening.

Band members have learned almost 10 songs throughout the last month, when several new members joined to fill out the horn and strings section. Practices are once a week and feel like more of a session than a standard AHS band or choir practice.

“It’s got the same flow,” said AHS junior Gab Kasak, who plays guitar. “It’s a little more loose and laid back. I like it.”

Davis and the students will demonstrate mariachi standards and lessons at the Midwinter Conference Friday. The group is looking for more performance opportunities, however. Band members hope to play at the Mower and Freeborn County Fairs this summer, and Davis hopes the group will actively seek out opportunities from local businesses and organizations to play.

“I’m very proud of them and what they’ve accomplished,” he said.

—Look to the Herald Sunday for an in-depth look at the AHS mariachi band.