Humble ISD’s Mariachi Program is providing new learning opportunities that enrich the lives of students through music and culture.
The program is offered to students in all grades at Humble Middle School, Ross Sterling Middle School and Humble High School. Instruments are provided to students to support their learning.
The popularity of mariachi has grown significantly in schools across Texas. It was introduced as a UIL competition option for fine arts in 2019. The growing popularity, along with a presentation at a recent school board conference, inspired Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen to establish a mariachi program in Humble ISD.
For Mariachi Director Samara Martinez, mariachi is about more than just musical instruments. It’s also a way of life that she’s passionate about introducing to her students.
“Mariachi is helping students connect with not only their instrument of choice, but also with the amazing culture that’s connected to it,” Ms. Martinez said.
Ms. Martinez has a goal to compete at the state level. That includes the UIL State Mariachi Festival. The event, usually held in February, has attracted more than 80 schools from across the state. She also hopes to compete in the most famous mariachi competition, the Mariachi Vargas Competition in San Antonio.
Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen echoes Ms. Martinez’s ambition to compete.
“We worked really hard to find an incredible mariachi director like Ms. Martinez,” Dr. Fagen said. “She has the passion and vision to grow this program and we want to support her in every way possible.”
Ms. Martinez was born in Tula de Allende in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.
She attended Jackson Middle School, later renamed Yolanda Navarro Middle School, and Project Chrysalis Middle School in Houston. While at Project Chrysalis Middle School, she found her passion for mariachi when she was introduced to the mariachi program for Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA). Ms. Martinez attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts before moving on to Stephen F. Austin State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in music education.
Prior to joining Humble ISD in August 2021, Ms. Martinez taught elementary music with a focus on mariachi, choir and violin to students in first through fifth grade at Lewis Elementary in Houston ISD. During her five years with Houston ISD, she also started a mariachi program and a violin program through a partnership with the Houston Symphony. In addition to serving as Humble ISD’s mariachi director, Ms. Martinez also teaches music theory and voice.
Building the Humble ISD Mariachi Program is a multiyear process, but Humble ISD Director of Fine Arts Destry Balch wants to build the program the right way.
“We expect the process to take about three years before we have a full group of vocalists, guitarists, violinists and trumpets,” Mr. Balch said.
A full mariachi ensemble of at least 20 members is needed for competition. A full instrument ensemble includes guitar, vihuela, guitarrón, guitarra de golpe, violin and trumpet.
“For 2021-2022 and the following school year, we will train students on vocals and guitar,” Mr. Balch said. “We want a strong foundation before adding violins and trumpets to the full group.”
Part of that foundation is students like Edward Garza, a sixth grader at Humble Middle School who plays guitar in Ms. Martinez’s mariachi class. “My favorite instrument to play is the guitar,” Garza said. “I’ve only been playing for four months and I love it.” Garza is one of 30 students enrolled in the growing program.