Making Mexican Music


Nick Czajka, junior, a guitarist in Mariachi, strums his guitar during Camarillo’s 2013 Christmas Parade.

The strains of guitars, trumpets, vihuelas and bass’s pour from the band room at Cam High during third period. Students from every corner of Cam High participate in the newly introduced Mariachi music class.

Mariachi class was introduced by brothers Mr. Tony Rivera and Mr. Dominic Rivera. After seeing the performances at Cam High’s Open House last year, the pair came up with an idea to create the class at Cam High. With the help of Mr. Tom Ito, associate principal, Mr. Pascual Campos, ESL teacher, Mr. Victor Palazuelos, Social Science teacher, Mr. Glenn Lipman, principal and 250 eager signatures for promotion, the brothers obtained approval by the Oxnard Union High School District’s assistant superintendent of educational services, Mr. Gregory O’Brien.

“The main focus of the class is to teach the kids how to play and articulate the music of Mariachi,” said Dominic. “The class will help students acquire the knowledge of Mexican culture through the art of music.”

The class is not limited to any student, as there are no requirements to join. Anyone can sign up, even people without any musical experience. It also provides a new way to achieve credits in certain areas, being as it is college-preparatory. Mariachi offers much needed school flexibility and can fulfill the performing arts curriculum while furthering instrumental skills.

Tony and Dominic both grew up with the Mariachi influences and practices that supplied them with sufficient experience in the subject. “We received private music lessons and also studied at UCLA – later we started our own Mariachi called, Mariachi Camarillo,” said Tony.

During class, students are encouraged to work in a tight environment with instruments that range from the guitar, to trumpet, to violins. “The close-knit environment helps encourage learning and building confidence among peers,” said Tony. “Mariachi class is like any other class, the major difference is the instant gratification a student acquires from learning to play something new.”

The Mariachi students have practiced and performed on campus with acts at the Cam High winter concert and at the Camarillo Christmas Parade late last year.

“Mariachi can teach people more about the Mexican culture; it’s more unique than any other variation of music,” said Juan Perez, junior, who joined Mariachi to learn more about Mexican culture. “When I was a kid, my dad used to play Mariachi music on the radio, and I just loved the beat of the music. I also want to finally learn to play guitar, and that’s why Mariachi is perfect for me.”