SWC Mariachi saves the day for high school musicians

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MASTERFUL MARIACHI — More than 200 students local high school students attended a mariachi conference organized by Dr. Jeff Nevin and SWC’s Mariachi Garibaldi.
Photo by Serina Duarte

Dr. Jeff Nevin’s blazing trumpet announced the start of the Southwestern College Mariachi conference. It could also have been announcing that a hero was about to save the day.

Sounds of Mexico’s grand music filled Mayan Hall as more than 200 students from the Sweetwater Union High School District attended the lively conference hosted by Professor of Music Jeff Nevin and his Mariachi Garibaldi.

Sweetwater’s Visual and Performing Arts Department inexplicably decided not to hold its fall mariachi conference this year, but Nevin would not stand by and let it be the day the music died.

“Sweetwater decided not to do its conference this year, so I stepped in to present a conference in its place,” Nevin said. “I did not want students to lose out on the experience of attending a conference because Sweetwater could not organize it.”

Students divided into groups based on the instruments they played and learned proper playing technique in multiple mariachi styles.

Nevin broke new grounds with an entertaining event, as he planned a conference students would enjoy.

“I call them master classes because students worked with former SWC mariachi students and professional classical musicians on instrumental technique,” he said. “Mariachi musicians tend to place an emphasis on learning song after song, but they do not realize (sometimes) that you need to spend time improving your technique.”

Mariachi differs in every state of Mexico, Nevin said, and the Sweetwater students learned what songs belong to certain regions.

Mariachi Garibaldi performed at Mayan Hall along with all 200 students who later joined them on stage to perform for an eager crowd.  Stand out numbers included “De Colores,” “La Valentina,” “El Caballito” and “El Suchil.”

Mario Eguia, a professional mariachi player and former SWC student of Nevin’s who now attends San Diego State University, was a teacher at the conference.

“The students were highly receptive,” he said. “I was surprised that in such little time I was able to teach so much.”

Students were given a copy of Nevin’s book “Mariachi Mastery,” a bilingual songbook and comprehensive guide to mariachi for intermediate students.

Students were not the only ones to leave with more than they came with.  Eguia provided a quality music education by teaching a handful of students how to read music.

“When students were actually able to read music after the little lesson I gave them,” Eguia said.  “They were ecstatic.”

Professional mariachi player Jonathan Baustista taught at the conference as well.

“I feel really good to pass on the little that I know,” Baustista said.

Baustista saw that just after a short while students could apply what they learned, lessons as simple as how to hold the instruments and how to stand.

“We really appreciate what Dr. Nevin is doing for the community,” Baustista said.

Nevin said the first-ever SWC Mariachi Conference was a success.

“I can’t wait to host one again next year,” he said.

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