The Wenatchee Valley welcomes back Mark Fogelquist this week. The creator of Wenatchee School District's amazing Mariachi program brings his latest group — Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista — to perform in two concerts on Saturday.
The program he started has flourished under the leadership of successive directors, The program is currently being led by Ramon Rivera and it attracts more than 300 students.
The program has been a lifeline for many Latino students — encouraging them to stay in school, get good grades, and learn the value of teamwork and performing under pressure. But Fogelquist said he's discovered that it fills an even greater need for the students."Mariachi also reaches their soul," he told me. "These kids get a sense of who they are and where they come from. It gives them strength and faith in themselves," he added.
He recalled how in the early days of the program that many of the students felt lost at Wenatchee High School and had a hard time seeing possibilities for their lives. Connecting them with music that gives them a sense of pride and belonging gave them opportunities to expand their horizons.
Other Mariachi programs around the country have fallen by the wayside, but the program in the Wenatchee School District has enjoyed support from the school district and the community. The focus of the festival on providing workshops for students to improve their skills and the connection with Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University underscores the effort to provide pathways to college for these students.
The festival will have two performances on Saturday — at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Wenatchee High School auditorium. Some greater entertainers will be performing, including a youngster with an incredible voice — Sebastien de la Cruz, and of course our own Mariachi Huenachi.