Updated: Feb 16
Author: Esther Hahn
Published: May 7, 2015
Local youth band to perform with Famous Mariachis
When mariachi music pours out of Cunha Intermediate School’s multipurpose room at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, the rich sound of strings, trumpets and vocals belongs to the young musicians of Mariachi Media Luna.
The local music program is part of Ayudando Latinos A Soñar, or ALAS, a Coastside program dedicated to exploring traditional Mexican arts and to providing creative enrichment for the Latino youth in Half Moon Bay and its surrounding areas.
The organization’s name translates into “empowering Latinos to dream,” according to its founder and social worker Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga. And the mariachi offering was added to the program in fall 2011.
In only a matter of a few years under the direction of Omar Naranjo, of Santa Cruz, the group has gone from inception to booking high-profile performances. Just last week, the students, ranging in age from 8 to 15, balanced their school studies with a weeknight performance at the San Francisco Fairmont for the Latino Community Foundation and a Sunday appearance at the city’s Concert in the Park, in an early celebration for Cinco de Mayo.
“Pretty much all of the children are from the start and have grown along with the program,” Hernandez-Arriaga said. “When Mariachi Media Luna first started, most of the kids, except for a handful, had no instrumental experience.”
Now the children can read music and can play and sing multiple songs from memory. ALAS also began Friday jam sessions to help continue the musical learning throughout the week.
“We’ve been trying to limit the amount of concerts so the kids can learn more about reading music and expanding their repertoire,” Hernandez-Arriaga said.
But there are some opportunities that the group couldn’t pass up, like a concert with Mariachi Vargas, one of the most influential mariachi bands in the world. The historic band is touring the United States and has invited the young coastal mariachis to play at the tour’s San Jose stop. Mariachi Media Luna will play an opening set of four songs and then help close the performance along with the headlining band.
“(Mariachi Vargas) liked that the kids were from a rural community,” Hernandez-Arriaga said. “Many times urban children have more opportunities, but in Half Moon Bay, the Latino children are really limited in cultural experiences. So they liked that we’re a younger, grassroots group. They see (Mariachi Media Luna) as the next generation of mariachi.”
The performance begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the City National Civic. While the balcony seats have already sold out, a limited quantity of floor tickets remain available to purchase.
The monthly class fee to participate in mariachi, or one of the three other arts classes offered by ALAS, is $35. Sponsorship opportunities are available: $400 providing a one-year scholarship and $200 providing for a six-month scholarship.