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Award-winning Uvalde Mariachi Band travels to Colorado

Members of Los Coyotes, the Uvalde Mariachi Band, on stage at Skyline High in Longmont on Sunday, April 28, during the last concert of their tour of Boulder County. The band performed with the Boulder chorale.
Maeve Conran
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Members of Los Coyotes, the Uvalde Mariachi Band, on stage at Skyline High in Longmont on Sunday, April 28, during the last concert of their tour of Boulder County. The band performed with the Boulder chorale.

Los Coyotes, the Uvalde High Mariachi Band, made history in 2023 after receiving a 1st Division award at the UIL State Mariachi Festival in Texas.

It was the first time the school had entered the competition.

"When we got to state, and we performed, the kids were a little sad because they thought that they didn't play as well as they should have," said band director Albert Martinez.

"But then, when they did receive their 1st Division, and they got the state title, it was exciting. It was, you know, like all their hard work finally came to fruition. So that was the best part of it."

The win was a moment of celebration for a community devastated by a school shooting in 2022.

The neck tie of the Los Coyotes Mariachi Band uniform. The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Maeve Conran
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
The neck tie of the Los Coyotes Mariachi Band uniform. The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The band was subsequently profiled in an article in Rolling Stone magazine, which caught the attention of Dr. Vicky Burrichter, the Artistic Director of the Boulder Concert Chorale.

"As I was reading through it and how Albert was handling the tragedy in Uvalde through celebrating mariachi, and celebrating their culture, and lifting the kids up, and mending hearts I think is how he said it to me at one point, I thought, 'this guy is absolutely an amazing teacher,' I could tell just from reading it," said Dr. Burrichter.

"So I emailed him and he responded right away. And I said, 'we have a concert of Mexican music planned, but we don't have anybody we're collaborating with yet. Would you consider coming?' And he said, 'yes.' And then the district was really nice enough to agree to have the kids come. And that's how we got started."

Arianna Ovalle, band director Albert Martinez, Tommie Guerrero, backstage before their performance at Skyline High in Longmont.
Maeve Conran
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Arianna Ovalle, band director Albert Martinez, Tommie Guerrero, backstage before their performance at Skyline High in Longmont.

The Boulder Concert Chorale performed with Los Coyotes at several concerts during the tour, which also included visits to local high schools as well as the music school at the University of Colorado.

Uvalde, a small rural town of just over 15,000 people in southern Texas, could not be more different from Boulder, Colorado, which is mostly affluent and predominantly white.

"Here we have this rural Texas, you know, these folks and largely Mexican and Indigenous community in Uvalde. And then we have Boulder, which is sort of known for being mostly Caucasian, you know, and to find a space in the middle where we could be and we could learn about each other, has just been extraordinary," said Dr. Burrichter.

Luis  performs on stage with Los Coyotes at Skyline High in Longmont, April 24, 2024.
Maeve Conran
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Luis performs on stage with Los Coyotes at Skyline High in Longmont, April 24, 2024.

The two communities share a common bond, both suffering a mass shooting just a year apart. 10 people were murdered at the King Soopers grocery store in March 2021, and 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in May 2022.

And while that connection exists, it didn't dominate the tour, says Dr. Burrichter.

"I mean, that's, I guess, the elephant in the room, you would say, that our communities have both suffered tragedy, but we really wanted to concentrate on the joy of bringing everybody together," she said.

For the high school students who traveled here from Texas, it was a life-changing experience.

"This was my first time flying and leaving the state of Texas," said Arianna Ovalle, an 11th grader who plays the violin in the band.

"It's been very exciting overall to see like the Flatirons visiting the university and meeting other students from here. It's been a great experience. We're very thankful," she said.

Band director Albert Martinez says mariachi music is a huge part of the community in Uvalde.

"So obviously it's very important to the Mexican culture, the Mexican community. Uvalde has a strong population of Mexicans. For these kids, their parents, to be able to see them play the music that they grew up listening to, it's very exciting for them," he said.

"Mariachi music is, it's very beautiful. It's very cultural and it makes us very proud to play it since a lot of us are Hispanic and Mexican. And so, just to be able to play that music, it's great from many levels," said Arianna Ovalle.

The band finished the show with a decidedly non-mariachi musical number.

As the audience joined in a mariachi cover of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, Los Coyotes closed out the concert and the tour.

Copyright 2024 RMCR.

That story was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico including KDNK.

Maeve Conran