The St. George Family Youth Center in Isla Vista was alive with the sounds of mariachi music last Thursday during !Viva El Arte de Santa Bárbara!’s fifth annual mariachi workshop. More than 40 participants, ranging in age from elementary school students to college kids, wielded guitarrónes, trumpets, harps, violins, ukuleles, and guitars while honing their skills alongside all 13 members of Grammy-winning Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the kids,” said Carlos Estrada, who instructs the young musicians of Goleta’s Mariachi Monarcas. “Our program helps teach kids self-agency and a pride in the tradition of mariachi.” During the workshop, participants split into groups practicing their particular instruments and gathered together for a performance afterward. “Look how many kids are in here practicing instead of out in the streets getting into trouble,” said Dominic Rivera, who also helps teach Mariachi Monarcas as well as a mariachi program in Oxnard schools that he brought to the event. “That’s success to me.”