Mariachi at the Schnitzer
Woodburn High School's Mariachi Band had the honor of warming up the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Dec. 15, playing in the venerable venue's lobby prior to the holiday concert "A Very Merry Christmas Concert with Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez."
Portland television station KGW visited Woodburn High School the day before the band visited Portland to feature a segment on the unique group.
"They (came to) our rehearsal during class and interviewed students and parents," WHS band teacher Nadia Maksimov said.
Woodburn bands performed two holiday concerts that evening, featuring the jazz band, concert band, beginning band and three levels of the mariachi bands.
With the concerts behind them, the Mariachi contingent encountered a moving experience in Portland.
"Our experience performing at and attending Mariachi Sol de Mexico's concert was incredible -- and that's an understatement," Woodburn band teacher Nadia Maksimov said. "It's really hard to put into words the feelings and emotions from that night. I'm so grateful that the Oregon Symphony provided this opportunity for my students."
What the students said
Maksimov asked a number of her students to share their thoughts on the Schnitzer experience. The following statements are in their words.
"In my four years in the Woodburn High School Mariachi, I've gotten to do and see some pretty great stuff around the state and in general, but what I experienced at the Schnitz -- listening to Mariachi Sol de Mexico -- has to be up there as one of the best things I've ever experienced. It's not every day you get to walk into this amazing concert hall, perform for people, then have your socks blown off immediately after by people who perform what you do professionally! Mariachi Sol de Mexico embodies the feelings I try to get across when I perform. They came out with so much power, their presence drew in our applause and we eagerly waited for them to play, and through the night, they only managed to make me want to play with them even more. I sang from my seat with a fiery passion to the songs they played with so much heart, some which I didn't even know the lyrics to, but everyone did too. There was a magical feeling through the room that everyone just understood. We all felt their music and we all sang, clapped, and cheered universally. I felt understood . For the first time in a while I felt as though my Mexican heritage was accepted by the people of that room and everyone who could hear the beautiful sound our culture has to represent it. My only regret that night was not getting to listen to a little more of their music and talking to the mariachis afterwards." --Aaron Espinoza
"I felt really amazing yesterday. Watching Mariachi Sol de Mexico perform reminded me of how much mariachi music means to me. Seeing them perform was the best. I loved the energy that was there -- it showed how much power the music has, for it brings us together. Also, I've never really yelled sang, but yesterday was something else. Overall, the whole place was really nice! While performing I did feel nervous, but the cheers kept me focused and motivated me to play well. Big thanks to the people who made it possible!" --Alex Tenorio
"Yesterday' performance was amazing. Being able to perform for so many people and watching them stop and stay the whole time was exciting and showed all of us that people really did want to listen to us. While playing, a lot of the people standing around us listening seemed so happy and sang along to the songs which made all of us happy and excited to continue playing. It was fascinating to watch and be able to deliver such real emotion and represent the culture well. Watching the Mariachi Sol de Mexico perform was very exciting. I love how they engaged with the audience and it was great seeing them perform songs that we had performed during the pre-show. We ended up just singing along to all the songs and having a good time. It was one of the best nights I have spent with the mariachi and I'm so glad and honored to have had a chance to play. It was inspiring and motivated me to put in more effort. It was just amazing." --Kimberly Herrera
"Being able to perform for Mariachi Sol de Mexico was a huge honor. Although I wish we had more time to get to know each other, I'm still ald they came to greet us. They were all very kind and supportive. While we were performing before their show I couldn't stop smiling. People would stop by to listen to us even from the floor above, which I had no idea existed until I heard them cheering us on. I don't think I'll ever forget playing at such a beautiful place - it was an amazing experience to be a part of. Immediately after Mariachi Sol de Mexico started performing, I was left speechless. They were crazy good and kept inspiring me with every piece they played. I appreciate all the time and effort they put into their music. It definitely motivates me to become a better musician." --Sandra Salazar
"Even after being a part of the WHS Mariachi program for a few years now, playing for a massive crowd is still very exhilarating and always gets my heart racing. Yet, when I played in front of a widely known mariachi (Mariachi Sol de Mexico) in Portland, standing right by us as we performed a few songs for them, I felt the uplifting need to go above and beyond and played my absolute heart out for them. It was as if I was looking up to them, as if they were my seniors, when in reality they were. I cannot put into words how ecstatic and amazing this trip was." --Alex Cortes
"Going to Portland was one of the coolest things I've done all year. Out of all the live shows I could have seen, I'm glad this was the first one after the lockdown. I had my jaw dropped and was smiling for pretty much the entire performance. To see both parts of my heritage mixed with the extreme skill and precision of the players had me in awe. I kind of had doubts about going (since I wouldn't have gotten to play), but I'm glad I stuck with it. 6 stars out of 5." --Romeo Espinoza
"Watching Mariachi Sol de Mexico perform at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last night was inspiring. It's really nice to see professionals representing our culture through their music, as well as seeing many different cultures in the audience come together to listen to them. It's encouraging to see what we could become one day. Currently, a lot of us in the Woodburn Mariachi Program look up to our Advanced mariachi band, and I think now they too have someone to look up to. Yesterday's performance made me feel inspired to continue pursuing mariachi because people just like us are able to do what they love and make a career out of it." --Mariana Bartolo
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