The Mariachi Band at Dalton High School was recently invited to perform for students and staff at Jacksonville State University.
Daisy Cardona-Kay, director of the mariachi band, attended Jacksonville State University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her connection to the school eventually lead to an invitation for the band to perform.
“JSU is one of the premier music programs in the area, therefore it attracts many students who are looking to pursue music as a course of study and as a career,” Cardona-Key said. “I have remained in contact with the music faculty over the years, and recently became involved with the JSU Latinx Alumni Group. Through them I was introduced to the President of the JSU Latino Association - El Latido, and they invited us to come play for them first. When the JSU Director of Bands learned that we would be at JSU to perform, he then invited us to perform for the JSU Chamber Winds, the University's top performing ensemble, and faculty as well.”
The students traveled to Jacksonville, Alabama, for the two performances. Anais Yaujre-Shultz, tenth grade student and member of the mariachi band, said that this opportunity was both exciting and nerve-wracking.
“Initially a lot of us were a little worried, because it’s one of the top music schools in the country,” Yaujre-Shultz said. “We were super excited, but also a little nervous, because we were going to this big music school that could potentially be a really big opportunity for us.”
Yaujre-Shultz credits the group’s success to the difficult challenges they have had to overcome in the past few years. Most of the mariachi band members joined three years ago, when they were still in middle school. When COVID-19 closed schools, they weren’t able to practice together. Even after school reopened, bands weren’t able to practice all together in order to mitigate the spread of COVID.
“When we had virtual days on Wednesdays, we would come to what is now Dalton Junior High and practice for an hour,” Yaujre-Shultz said. “I think it’s what helped us to get where we are today. We continued through the really hard battles of COVID and not being able to rehearse as a full group for some time. Looking back to see how far we have come since seventh grade, it is shocking sometimes.”
Yaujre-Shultz said she is thankful to her teacher for having the idea to put this mariachi band together.
“I’m thankful to Mrs. Cardona for letting us have this opportunity,” Yaujre-Shultz said. “It’s such a great thing because we’re able to go out into the community to play for people, other schools, even quinceañeras and things like that. We can go out into the community and show them what this high school is capable of.”
Rafael Maldonado is a junior at Dalton High School and another member of the school’s mariachi band. Maldonado said he is thankful for Dalton High School’s support of the group.
“The trip took planning and it took a lot of support, especially from our principal, Mrs. Hungerpiller,” Maldonado said. “I think support from our school and from the community is what got us to JSU in the first place.”
For the performance, Maldonado said that he was particularly nervous, being the vocalist that sings the group’s opening number.
“It’s already scary performing for people you don’t know,” Maldonado said. “Then add on top of that, you’re at a college and the audience is there to study music. It is really nerve-wracking to make sure you’re not making any mistakes.”
Once they started playing though, he said it was easy to relax and perform well. Overall, Maldonado said he is grateful to be a part of the mariachi band and participate in the opportunities that come along with it, like traveling to JSU.
“It was really fun,” Maldonado said. “We really are like a family, even when it gets stressful sometimes. I really like the opportunities that mariachi has brought us. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”