The Quad Cities' only mariachi band for middle schoolers

EAST MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - Middle schoolers in East Moline are getting a chance to perform all over the Quad Cities, and play the music that's not heard in our local schools. One in three students at Glenview Middle School is Hispanic. So by playing mariachi music, which traces back to the 18th century in central Mexico, some students can connect to their history or learn something new!

Middle schoolers in East Moline are getting a chance to perform all over the Quad Cities, and play the music that's not heard in our local schools.

"I just love how people are positive about the music," said fifth-grader Maesyn York who plays the violin.

About two dozen fifth graders are learning how to play the violin so they can join the Mariachi band in middle school. Blerina Bekiri is one of those fifth-graders. Bekiri is looking forward to sixth grade so she can join the band, "I'm kind of like nervous and scared but actually really excited because I wanna experience how to be in a concert and stuff."

Mariachi bands are made up of instruments like violins, different types of guitars, and trumpets. Sergio Avila is a seventh-grader who plays the guitar in the band. He explains that the outfits they wear are very symbolic, "the moño (bowtie) ... well, it's just a little fancy. And this, the jacket, it represents the band. So any color that the jacket is wearing or that you put on the jacket, it represents the band colors."

Rich Clark didn't know very much about mariachi music until six years ago when the idea was brought to him by community member Abel Zertuche. Now, Clark is the director. "A half note is still a half note. So music is the universal language so it kind of all fits together and works together. As a percussionist, I may be doing stuff with the symphony and the next day I might be playing with a salsa band. And the next day maybe a jazz group. So it's just a universal language and it all fits together," said Clark.

Students play all over the Quad Cities, with about 30 performances each year! "As a teacher, it's always great to see not to be a cliche but to see the seed turn into the mighty oak. It's really cool to see the students grasp something and all of a sudden they just grab onto it and all of a sudden they're performing in front of hundreds of people," said Clark.

At the Coco concert in January, families were dancing while watching their students perform. Clark thinks parents are excited about the new music group, "well I think a lot of parents are proud because number one, we're continuing a cultural awareness for the Latino community."

This is the 6th year of the Glenview Mariachi band. They started with just 19 students and have almost 100 now! Director Clark said for at least 50% of the kids in the program, this is the only musical activity they have. The next closest middle school mariachi band isn't until you get to the Chicago suburbs.

To read more or listen about the Glenview Mariachi band,
click here for TV6's Montse Ricossa's newest podcast about the band.