Program hopes to ignite passion, preserve culture with Mariachi in Chicago Schools

By Haydee Clotter

Cesar Maldonado is currently an investment banker and grew up around Mariachi music his entire life. He didn’t have a music background but combined his passion for Mariachi music and his community. As a CPS alumnus at Davis Elementary School, Maldonado took it upon himself to start The Mariachi Heritage Foundation.

The program gives students in grades K-12 the opportunity to celebrate the Mexican culture and heritage while continuing their music education. Students must be in good academic standing to participate in the program.

“We started with five schools now we’re in seven schools,” said Maldonado.”We have about 1,700 students. The program takes place during the school day, integrated as part of the general curriculum. The Mariachi curriculum aligns with the music and arts standards in Illinois, and the national standards.”

Maldonado says he’s hopeful the state budget situation will be solved so The Mariachi Heritage Foundation can expand to more schools throughout the city.

José Ozuna is a music educator and Mariachi director at UNO Soccer Academy. He’s also performed for the Chicago Bulls during Latin nights for the NBA. He’s worked with kids from kindergarten to eighth grade to teach them how to play the guitar and violin.

“We’re excited that CPS, along with a few community groups, have decided to take this up, being that the students want it, the families want it,” said Ozuna. “It’s nothing but good for the kids.”

Photo at top: Students at UNO Soccer Academy practice mariachi music (Haydee Clotter/MEDILL)