Community leaders “Teach it Forward”

College students return to LBC to teach music for free mariachi program.

The summer before entering 8th grade, Mayryn Cruz and Alexandra Ruiz attended LBC’s Mariachi Camp in Cloverdale for the first time. They loved the music, the instruction, and the collective sound they created with the other 22 students at camp. They were hooked. Yet, at age 13, neither could have imagined where that childhood camp experience would lead – not in the young adult lives they would launch five years later or the community leadership roles they would take on by paying it forward to other LBC students wanting to learn mariachi.

All thanks to the generosity of LBC donors who help us improve access to the arts and arts education in Sonoma County. Who help us reach students like Mayryn and Alexandra.

At the start of the school year in 2017, both students joined LBC’s year-round Mariachi Ensemble – Mayryn on the guitar and Alexandra on the violin and eventually the guitarrón. For the next five years, they continued to return to summer camp, where they eventually also volunteered as teen counselors, honed their skills with increasingly difficult music, and performed. Their parents took turns driving the young musicians the 30 miles to Santa Rosa. In 2019, they were fitted for their first trajes to perform on stage for the first time.

Mayryn and Alexandra graduated from Cloverdale High School last spring. They couldn’t imagine missing Mariachi Summer Camp, so they applied to become two of the first graduates to return to camp as paid assistants. Mayryn worked with the Armoniá students, who were learning the various string instruments, except the violin, which Alexandra taught. “It’s not easy to find mariachi teachers, but, as our number of campers increased, we needed help,” said Ashleigh Worley, Director of LBC’s Education and Community Engagement programs. “As graduates, Mayryn and Alexandra had the fundamental skills and knew our program.”

Both Alexandra and Mayryn helped emcee at the Cloverdale camp’s closing reception last summer. Mayryn explained that participating in the mariachi program crystalized her decision to become a teacher and to share with other children the gifts that LBC shared with her. She now works as a Teaching Artist, under the guidance of LBC staff, for our year-round Mariachi Program, while she pursues her degree in early education at Santa Rosa Junior College. Alexandra attends UC Davis, where she is studying to become a veterinarian. She’ll return to teach at the 2023 Summer Camps, and both students still will performwith our advanced group, Mariachi Cantares de Mi Tierra, whenever possible.

“I have to believe our donors are gratified seeing the young people they support returning to our community to become leaders,” said Tracy Sawyer, Community Partnerships Supervisor. “These students joined our mariachi programs not knowing what to expect and have since found a place to give back to this community.”

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