Ramon Rivera’s music program at Wenatchee High School is
a Give a Note Foundation grant recipient.
Ramon Rivera was named a 2017 CMA Music Teacher of Excellence
by the CMA Foundation this past spring.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in Washington, D.C., with a small-town mariachi music ensemble is a dream come true to our city of Wenatchee, WA.
I have been the Mariachi Director at Wenatchee High School since 2005. On June 27th, we received a letter from our North Central Washington Congressman Dave Reichert inviting our advanced group Mariachi Huenachi to perform for members of Congress, the staff, visitors from across the nation, and the world at the U.S. Capital for National Hispanic Heritage Month. During Hispanic Heritage Month—which is celebrated September 15 through October 15 each year—U.S. members of Congress honor the generations of Hispanic Americans who have enriched our nation and recognize their many economic and cultural contributions to our society.
I am so excited that our mariachi education program will have the honor and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform at the U.S. Capitol on October 12 during this celebration. Our performance will give Members of Congress and visitors from across the globe the opportunity to experience one of the oldest musical traditions of our Hispanic American Heritage. It will also provide members of Congress with a valuable opportunity to learn more about mariachi music and its success in elevating student achievement, so that success can be replicated in other programs across the country.
We also received a second letter from the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, welcoming Mariachi Huenachi to the U.S. Capitol and wishing us luck in our upcoming performance. I still cannot believe we were given this opportunity. I always tell my students to dream big and maybe someday you will play for the President of the United States. Right now, we are really close to that moment.
My students met with me at the end July to get ready for our show in Wenatchee. I was so excited to tell them the news: “We are going to Washington, D.C., to play for Congress!” I told the students. A student raised his hand and asked, “You mean the ‘other’ Washington?” I could see the smiles on their faces. Another student asked me, “Are we taking a bus there?”
Many of my students come from families that work in agriculture. Wenatchee is the apple capital of the world. They work in cherry orchards and harvest apples during the summer. When we had practice in the mariachi room this summer, I asked the students, “How many of you have been to Washington, D.C.?” No one raised their hands. “How many of you have been on an airplane?” Only three out of 30 had been on an airplane before. One student told me, “I am so excited for the plane ride!”
The next step was figuring out how we were going to pay for the whole group to go. The estimated cost was $32,000, or $1000 per student to go. We had many fundraisers during the summer. I went to every service club, church, non-profit, and public business to see if they could help us out. What is really neat is that our community came together to raise needed funds for their trip!
Being in a school district that recognizes the importance of music education is huge to me, but having a community unite to give students an amazing opportunity to share their musical talent—at our nation’s capital—is beyond incredible.
We are all set to travel the red-eye flight on Tuesday, October 10th, to go to Washington, D.C. And yes, none of my students have ever flown on a red eye. This will be a great teachable moment for the students. (One student asked me if people sleep on planes.) I am so proud of the students, the community, and Wenatchee High School for coming together to make this once-in-lifetime opportunity for my students happen. I cannot wait until my next blog, to tell you all about trip.
Remember Dream Big—and maybe you will play for the President of United States one day.
Ramon Rivera is the Mariachi Director and music educator at Wenatchee High School in Washington state.