When Abby Heras submitted her Gift of Music grant proposal to CU Schools Foundation last fall, her goal was to introduce students at International Prep Academy (IPA) to traditional mariachi music and increase the materials in the school’s music library. But the impact of her GLOBAL FOLKS project extended far beyond those goals.
Funds from the grant were used to bring a bilingual family mariachi band, Cielito Lindo, to the school for concert in February.
Heras says, “The students, families and staff enjoyed and appreciated the performance. The moms were swooning with their hands over their hearts and the students were actively engaged. Some of my more quiet and reserved minority students felt empowered to participate and be part of the assembly.”
Before Cielito Lindo came, Heras shared songs and videos of their performances, so students could sing along with familiar songs.
“When I spoke with Juan Lucero (leader and father of the band) I explained that I wanted this to be interactive; I did not want IPA to simply sit and soak it in. I wanted students to be actively participating in the performance, whether it was as an audience member, a volunteer to play with the band or a member of the choir singing a welcome song.”
The concert was a huge success, but it was only one component of a multi-week process that began with Heras teaching folk songs from around the world and sharing folk tales that relate to those cultures. The timing of the project provided additional learning opportunities. Heras explains, “Around the time we were preparing and learning songs from the African American experience, the news was flooded with reports of immigration bans and ICE raids. My minority students were able to make connections to the oppression African Americans felt during the times of slavery and the Civil Rights movement. I shared stories of my parents’ immigration experience and the racism they experienced as immigrants and in the workplace. In return, students shared their stories.”
Heras adds, “This unit has taught me that these conversations are important and they are not too young to have them. I think exposing the students to the songs and the history behind them has stretched their thinking and made them more open-minded.”
Abby Heras’ GLOBAL FOLKS project served 250 students and their families at International Prep Academy in the 2016-2017 school year.