Holy Cross’ Mariachi band has given middle and high school students an outlet for musical and cultural expression since its formation in the early 2000s.
Because of funding cuts, none of the area’s schools have music programs, even in the after-school hours. The Mariachi band, along with Holy Cross’ Marimba Ensemble and Children’s Choir, gives the neighborhood’s youth the opportunity to discover and develop their musical talent—which also keeps them off the street.
The Mariachi band does more than just introduce young people to music; it also ties them to their cultural heritage. The ensemble of 12–15 performers—including vocalists, trumpet, guitar, and violin players—regularly performs at quinceañera Masses and other parish celebrations, adding a community-centered aspect to these events. As the talent and musicianship of the group grows, they hope to expand their performances to venues and occasions outside of the parish.
A dedicated teacher who is familiar with Mariachi traditions, music, and instruments guides the group through four hours of practice each week, with special focus on each instrument and how they work together. Because of the skill and commitment required to teach Mariachi, this teacher is paid a yearly salary to ensure that the students will have the long-term support they need to learn their instruments. In addition to teacher-led practices, students must also dedicate themselves to practicing at home with one of the parish-supplied instruments. Students are allowed to keep these instruments as long as they are committed to and actively participating in the group.
As with other programs at Holy Cross, members of the Mariachi band also benefit from an increased knowledge of culture and the world outside the neighborhood. When funding permits, the teacher takes students who have been consistent with their practice to see professional Mariachi groups and other musical performances around the city. These field trips not only expand their cultural horizons and knowledge of the world outside the Back of the Yards neighborhood, they serve as energizing inspirations for these budding young musicians.
You can donate directly to the Mariachi band to make a significant impact on these young people. Or you can make a general-program use donation to impact all of tCI’s programs working to build safe, sustainable futures for those living in at-risk communities.