LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – For the students of the Las Vegas High School Mariachi Joya, their excitement for class is palpable.

“It’s something I always look forward to every day, picking up my instrument and playing,” the group’s Student Director, Axel Rodriguez-Olivas says.

The UNLV-bound student says his dream is to teach mariachi music to others, and, luckily for him, he’ll now be able to further his mariachi education without having to leave the valley.

UNLV will be offering its first mariachi program starting this fall, led by Las Vegas High School’s Mariachi Joya Director Stephen Blanco.

“I personally have a love for music that I feel like no one can take away from me, so I want to help other students reach that same level of love for music,” Axel Rodriguez-Olivas says.

Blanco says at any given time, there are schools within the Clark County School District that want to add mariachi courses but can’t because there aren’t enough qualified mariachi teachers.

“There are no mariachi courses offered in Nevada right now, there’s an ensemble, there have been ensembles, but there are no classes to prepare students to go further,” Blanco says.

UNLV’s program will initially include three courses: Fundamentals of Mariachi, an audition-based ensemble, and Mariachi Songs and Styles.

Blanco hopes it will eventually be offered as a minor, and he has the backing of UNLV’s School of Music Director Dr. Isrea Butler.

“I’m excited to see this program grow and expand and even become a minor so that we can produce more music educators that are able to not just teach music education but also teach mariachi music,” Dr. Butler says.

Dr. Butler says it’s important students see their cultures represented in music.

“My parents always talk to me about how life was in Mexico where they came from, and I feel like it’s the cultural background and music put into one, so it’s like the best of both worlds,” Rodriguez-Olivas says.

Rodriguez-Olivas says he’s looking forward to learning new music and playing with new people during the upcoming fall semester.

Auditions for the ensemble are coming soon. Blanco suggests interested students keep an eye on the UNLV’s School of Music Website and social media.

“In the coming months, all eyes in mariachi education are going to be on UNLV,” Blanco says. “This is going to be the most robust mariachi program in the area that’s offered.”


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