Based on a Digital Measures impact report by Stacey Sowders and Patrick Willis, Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H Youth Development, Metro Region
Mariachi STEAM Summer Camp offers middle and high school Hispanic musicians an immersive musical experience while emphasizing exploration of STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).
Hispanic students are currently the largest minority group in the Oregon public school system, and they score lower than national averages on math and science tests. Their participation and success in higher education is also significantly lower than other youth populations. Using music as the common denominator, the Mariachi STEAM Summer Camp stimulates curiosity about and interest in STEAM careers.
The Mariachi STEAM Summer Camp is the brainchild of Romanna Flores, a dedicated 4-H STEM volunteer and Intel employee. Started in 2016 and now in its second year, the camp has created enthusiastic participants and supporters.
“I did not think college was an opportunity for me before this camp.” Student testimonial
In 2016, underserved youth from diverse schools in Portland, Hillsboro and Forest Grove participated in a five-day residential Mariachi Camp on the OSU campus in Corvallis. Music-focused activities introduced students to music theory and audio processing concepts, and connected music to STEAM concepts, all while advancing their music performance skills. Activities included:
- Assembling a musical greeting card with electrical components
- Digital audio recording
- Three-dimensional model construction and printing
Students learned to analyze the properties of audio signals from their own digitally recorded music files using MATLAB. OSU’s Dr. Cotilla-Sanchez introduced basic filtering techniques and demonstrated the math behind those filters.
Intel volunteers led a technology workshop that combined digital audio editing with an introduction to hardware and electronics. The result was a personalized musical greeting card.
Oregon State University students led recreational activities and provided invaluable guidance to college preparedness and expectations.
Quotes from the 2016 cohort:
“I feel like it would be fun just to push our limits and see more parts of OSU and their classes and what it takes to be in OSU.”
“After learning about the technology … I wanted more time because of how fun it was.”
“I loved to learn about the technology like MATLAB and making music with SoundTrap. Now I can make music anytime anywhere!”
2016 camp leadership included:
- Romanna Flores – Intel Project Manager (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers)
- Richard Flores – Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- Daniel Bosshardt – Hillsboro School District (Music Instructor)
- Lesslie Nunez – Forest Grove School District (Music Instructor)
- Sativa Cruz – OSU Student, Graduate Research – Environmental Sciences
Funding was provided by the 4-H Foundation, Oregon State University Precollege Program, Hillsboro School District, Intel, individual donors, registration fees from families, and in-kind donations by OSU Extension 4-H in Washington County.
At the request of the 2016 cohort, the 2017 program expanded to a seven-day and six-night experience. It continues the tradition of music rehearsals, music theory and composition and the history of Mariachi music, all culminating in a concert.
Throughout each day, math, science and technology activities engage the 30-youth cohort. Several high school graduates from the 2016 inaugural cohort returned in 2017 to work as camp counselors. Other students from last year had such a memorable experience they returned for a second year of Mariachi Camp.
A little about Mariachi
- In 2011, UNESCO recognized mariachi, a hard-hitting, lively music, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
- The music originated in the center-west of Mexico. Over the decades, the music that transformed from a regional rural folk music into an urban form of music that is viewed as quintessentially Mexican.
- A 10-day International Mariachi Festival is held each year in Guadalajara. It attracts more than 500 mariachis (bands), who perform in concert halls and city streets.
- Traditional mariachi instruments are trumpets; violins; guitar; the vihuela, a high-pitched, round-backed guitar that provides rhythm; and a bass guitar called a guitarrón, which also provides rhythm. Six violins, two trumpets, and one each of the guitar, vihuela and guitarrón makes up the ideal mariachi band.
- Historically, mariachi groups have been made up of men but there is growing acceptance of female mariachis.
- Big-city radio stations, movie studios, and record companies took mariachi music to new audiences throughout Mexico and abroad beginning in the 1930s.
- There is not a lead singer in Mariachi. Everyone in the ensemble does some vocalization even if it is just during the chorus parts.
Sources: Wikipedia, Smithsonian, TeacherVision