In Lak’ech: Mariachi camp teaches kids music and respect for one another

Mariachi madness kids get in tune at camp

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - There's the violins, the guitars and the trumpets that all make mariachi music a staple of the Southwest.

It’s an important part of the culture and lessons one elementary school in town strives to teach students over the summer.

One by one, students enter the cafeteria of Davis Bilingual Elementary School. When inside, the noise of different instruments filled the halls. But with a short countdown, it only takes moments to calm the chaos.

Mariachi camp teaches kids music
Mariachi camp teaches kids music (Source: KOLD News 13 Staff)

"They start off not even knowing how to hold the instrument," said Jazlin Ladrir, one of the volunteers. She helps the students learn each instrument. "They get so excited to learn and make sound."

But when these students' instruments are out of tune, their connections with each other aren't.

The students are scattered across the school in different classrooms. Each mariachi class focuses on a different lesson.

In one classroom, a young Xavier Camou gets a little shy performing in front of his friends.

"I was singing but I didn't know," Camou said. "I was mumbling them because I didn't know the words."

Another camp volunteer pulls him aside to focus in on the lyrics, and helps him find his voice.

"I forgot some of the words -- had to practice them," said Camou.

They say practice makes perfect.

"We're all supportive and build each other up," said Ladrir. "Rather than teasing each other and tearing each other down."

Ladrir was once a student in this camp, just like the kids she teaches.

"I picked up the violin when I was 5," she said. "I've been playing ever since. It's something that I love."

It's a life lesson that struck a chord and became a tradition in her family.

"All my siblings came here and they've all played. I think it's something wonderful," she explained.

Ladrir decided she had to do her part to give back to the school, she says, made her who she is today.

"It grew into something more than just a practice," Ladrir said, "It became a part of me."

A part of her because perhaps the most important lesson she's carried on from the camp has nothing to do with music at all.

Mariachi camp teaches kids music
Mariachi camp teaches kids music (Source: KOLD News 13 Staff)

"In Lak'ech -- it's a saying that you are my other me," she said. "That rule here at Davis sets a good foundation -- the core for respect."

In Lak'ech is plastered all over the school. In classrooms, on the walls in the hall, etc. But that respect goes far beyond classroom walls.

"It's for everybody. You get kids from all sorts of races learning how to play this kind of music," Ladrir said. "I think that's really beautiful because it brings in the diversity."

"It really touches me and puts a positive feeling in my heart," said Alfredo Valenzuela, with a teary-eyed smile.

Valenzuela is a former teacher at Davis. He started the mariachi camp years ago.

"I got a job doing my hobby," he said with a giggle.

He started it as a way to share his love of music with his students, but he's still amazed by the impact it has made.

"They get into groups, you know, in middle school and high school. Those are challenging years. But if they get into music and it makes them happy - it keeps them in a very positive avenue," he said. "This makes me so happy to see a majority of these teachers here are my ex students."

Mariachi camp
Mariachi camp (Source: KOLD News 13 Staff)

The mariachi camp serves as story of success spanning across ages as they witness personal growth among generations.

This camp has grown a lot over the years. More than 200 kids took took part this year, but when it started there were only 60 kids or so.

The camp officially wraps up for the summer on Friday, June 28.

For details on how to get involved with the mariachi camp next summer, or other mariachi opportunities -- visit Davis’ website by clicking HERE.

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