For the past 11 years, the Spanish Community of Wallingford has helped children stay connected to their Mexican heritage through a music program featuring dance, singing and traditional instruments.
In 2010, Maria Harlow, who at the time was executive director of the nonprofit agency, asked Evangeline Mendoza to direct the music program. Since the start of the program, students have gone on to pursue professional careers in music.
Yazim Lopez, who was previously part of the music program and graduated with a degree in music from Western Connecticut State University, continues to visit and help students in the program.
“The purpose of this program is to teach students about their culture and about their roots,” Mendoza said. “Aside from learning music from their culture, this is also helping strengthen their Spanish. These children will always have a music foundation they can turn to. It will build their confidence and they become a social group.”
Mexican and Latin American students can immerse themselves in their culture at the SCOW School of Music. The program has been known for forming the Mariachi Academy of Connecticut which has performed all over the state. Students perform using the traditional Mariachi instruments. There is a dance group that dances the Sevillana from Spain, a type of folk dance influenced by Flamenco.
Mariachi is a type of traditional Mexican folk music using the vihuela Mexicana, guitarrón, harp, violin, guitar, trumpet, and voice.
Prior to the pandemic, Mendoza continued to work with students on a private basis with piano lessons, violin lessons and singing lessons. When the pandemic happened, everything had to stop until she received a call about a youth Mariachi group that needed help.
Since September, Mendoza has been working with two Mariachi groups one beginner level and the other advanced. Mendoza has worked with the Director of the Mariachi Academy of New York City to conduct workshops with the students at SCOW as well.
Supervisor of Language & Community Partnerships for Meriden Public Schools, Evelyn Robles Rivas sees the music school at SCOW as an international family that celebrates a rich culture.
“These are the families that do not want to lose the language and the culture from their mainland. It allows students to enrich their experience and keep their home language. I am really proud of the work Evangeline has done. We have had students that have gone to college to pursue music careers. The program gives a lot of value to the culture,” Robles Rivas said.
The music program is hoping to start a new Mariachi in September. For more information contact SCOW at (203) 265-5866.