Gompers Junior High’s population is 97% minority and 100% low income. When Christine Adelmann interviewed for her position at Gompers, she expressed an interest in starting a mariachi program. “I believed that it would be well-received by the community and provide our students with a culturally relevant musical experience,” she said.
And she was right! The mariachi program launched in 2019 and was so popular that it was offered virtually to the entire district for the 2020-2021 school year.
“As a white non-Spanish speaking mariachi director, I have relied heavily on Joliet's Hispanic community to make this experience valuable and as authentic as possible. I have always been very upfront with my students, and I told them that this ensemble was going to be just as much of a learning experience for me as it is for them,” Adelmann said.
Her Spanish-speaking students take the lead when it comes to learning lyrics and pronunciation. “This gives our student leaders a sense of ownership over the ensemble and emphasizes that we are all valuable members of the ensemble with important contributions to make,” she said. “I am humbled and grateful that our kids are always excited to share their knowledge of mariachi and their culture.”
After the first mariachi performance, the community reaction was overwhelming and heartwarming. Adelmann said, “Knowing that we had created an ensemble that the community valued and could embrace brought me tremendous pride as a music educator.”