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Education

A Sioux City high school becomes the latest school to offer a mariachi band

North High School's new mariachi band rehearsed for their first performance on Tuesday.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
North High School's new mariachi band rehearsed for their first performance on Tuesday.

Sioux City’s North High School is the latest Iowa school to add a mariachi band to its extracurricular offerings.

Twenty high school students will perform their debut mariachi concert tonight at the school. It’s part of a growing number of Iowa schools embracing the traditional Mexican music form. Schools in Ottumwa, West Liberty and Storm Lake have all begun programs in the last five years.

Band director Kamal Talukder said the high school decided to add the musical group after seeing Denison Community School District’s band perform – a competitive mariachi group that started over a decade ago.

“At the end of that performance, we had a lot of kids that are like, how are we going to start one? When are we gonna have a mariachi band?,” Talukder said. “It's been something that the community has been asking for for years.”

 Kamal Talukder plays the guitar and leads the mariachi band at a rehearsal on Tuesday.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Kamal Talukder plays the guitar and leads the North High School mariachi band at a rehearsal on Tuesday.

Hispanic and Latino students make up the majority of North High School’s student body. In the Sioux City Community School district, more than 5,000 students identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Talukder said it’s a way for these kids to connect with their culture. He said many kids in the band grew up listening to the songs they now get to perform.

“It's the music that you wake up to on Saturday morning when you're supposed to be cleaning the house,” Talukder said. “That's the experience of most Hispanic kids in the U.S.”

North High freshman Luz Espinoza said it means a lot to her to have the opportunity to use her violin skills on music from her Hispanic culture. She said her family is excited to see her involved with the mariachi band.

“You don’t really get to see many programs do something like this,” she said. “It’s different and unique for high schools to do this.”

 The North High School mariachi band practices their performance at a rehearsal on Tuesday.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
The North High School mariachi band practices their performance at a rehearsal on Tuesday.

The band will play traditional mariachi songs like “De Colores” and “La Raspa” – which Talukder describes as quintessential to the mariachi repertoire. He has also arranged a more modern song, “Nunca Es Suficiente”, for the performance at his students' request.

Junior Jose Valladolid, who plays the trumpet in the band, said he feels privileged to go to a school that embraces the music he hears around his house.

“I kind of grew up with mariachi music a lot, just like around me,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect.’ It just felt natural to me.”

Talukder said he hopes to see the program bring in even more students next year. He said he wants to add singers, dancers and more instruments to get the full mariachi sound.

“It's exciting to have a group of students or a student body that is so accepting of different cultures and wanting to perform,” he said.