Mariachi madness in Eagle Vail |

Mariachi madness in Eagle Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
HL mariachi band2 KA 02-26-08

The students in Battle Mountain High School’s music program don’t get to wear sombreros or ornate matching suits in class, but at least they can play guitar like a Mariachi. Only six months ago, that much wasn’t even possible. Thanks to the vision of former music director Lewis Stahl, the program now offers Mariachi guitar classes. The students will get their first chance to show off their talents alongside the rest of the school’s music program Thursday night during BMHS’s Winter Concert.

Israel Hernandez, a senior in the Mariachi class, is excited to be a part of the class and tonight’s concert.

“The Mariachi is just like a really big part of Mexican music and everything, so having a program that relates to it is a lot more fun than a regular music class,” Hernandez said.

BMHS current music director, Aaron Wacker, took over the program nearly three weeks ago.

“To actually have (students) have a class that they can just play the music that they already like to jam out to really helps the program,” Wacker said.

So far the Mariachi section of the music program is made up solely of Hispanic kids, but Wacker hopes to see other students embrace it as well. With the growing Hispanic population in Eagle Valley and the fact that students often times learn about other cultures while studying music, Wacker said that Mariachi music can only be a good thing for his students to learn.

A full Mariachi band usually consists of trumpet, violin and guitar players, although other instruments can be added for affect. Wacker described the Mariachi sound as party or dance music ” upbeat and happy.

“It’s a tradition strictly from Mexico and not from any of the other Hispanic cultures,” Wacker explained.

Unfortunately, for now, the students involved with the Mariachi program only have guitars to work with, but Wacker said it’s his goal to eventually provide them with violins and trumpets, as well.

Although Wacker has a very extensive music background ” he recently graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in music education and studied the tuba ” it is safe to say that Mariachi music is not his field of expertise. He hasn’t taught Mariachi music until now, but according to him, that’s just part of the fun.

“They all help out each other and they help out me if I don’t know how to say a word or something then they’ll translate for me,” Wacker said. “They know that I’m learning and they know they’re learning and we’re just growing together and they’re helping me as much as I’m helping them.”

Watching the students goof off while practicing, it’s easy to see that they know how to have fun while learning. They strum away at guitars and joke in whispered tones, laughing at each other when they make mistakes. It’s also clear that Wacker’s training is paying off.

Karla Estrada, another of Wacker’s students, couldn’t play the guitar at all before the Mariachi class, but she is pleased with her improvement up to this point, she said.

Estrada and Hernandez are optimistic that kids who aren’t Hispanic will join the class, and that they in turn will be able to share their culture with them.

Rigo Spath, 18, who will play guitar and sing during the Mariachi performance Thursday night, put it this way: “If you want to learn a little more about Mexican culture and our music and how we’re all about our roots and everything, show up on Thursday, watch us bring down the house.”

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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