Lindsey Magallanes’ eyes were wide and shining as she hesitantly touched the guitars before her.
“The old guitars are broken and the sound is off. To get new ones, is amazing,” said the 10th grader, a member of Los Tigres de San Fernando, the mariachi band composed of San Fernando High School students led by Grammy Award winner Sergio “Checo” Alonso of the Mariachi Los Camperos.
Christmas came early for San Fernando High School. On Friday, Nov. 30, the school received a large and much needed donation that will keep its band and mariachi groups in tune and playing for generations to come.
StubHub and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation joined forces to donate the cache of instruments to the surprise of hundreds of students during a special music assembly at the school’s auditorium.
The guitars came along with 50 saxophones, drums and tubas also known as sousaphones. In all, there were $77,000 worth of new musical instruments before her and the other marching band and mariachi students who admired them.
“It’s an amazing donation. We’re definitely going to use them,” said ninth grader Jessica Castillas, another member of the school mariachi group.
Jeff Poirier, general manager of Music for StubHub, said the company have given more than $700,000 worth of musical instruments to schools in an effort to give a boost to music education at local schools.
The goal is to distribute $3 million in three years. Schools make their “pitch,” and Music for StubHub decides who gets the donation.
“We look for underserved, low-income areas with music programs in need,” he explained.
It’s also a matter of finding schools with plenty of talent such as San Fernando.
“With the caliber of the instructors that they have, I’m glad we made the decision,” said Poirier of choosing San Fernando for the gift.
A Much Needed Boost
In February 2013, the school had its two marching-band tubas stolen, a theft hard to overcome.
Tubas cost about $6,000 each.
“Since then we’ve been trying to replace them. Now we have them,” said a very upbeat Alonso, who is also a music teacher at the school.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. It’s fantastic. You have prestigious organizations that are supporting the youth, arts music, and a community that’s long needed more services.”
He said the instruments will be put to great use.
“Children who would not have the means to buy instruments don’t have to worry about it now,” Alonso said.
Children like Jose Ocampo, an 11th grader who plays the xylophone in the school marching band.
“I’m definitely surprised,” Ocampo said looking at the new instruments.
He noted the instruments they had at San Fernando High were fine, “but you can see the marks on them.”
Now it will be up to him and others to put marks on the new ones.
“I’m scared even just to touch them,” he said giddily.
Principal Flora Mendoza-Werner was equally happy and grateful. “This is a wonderful gift that benefits the students at San Fernando,” she said.
Alonso and Mendoza-Werner hope to expand the music and mariachi programs. Both have a long and well-respected history in the Los Angeles Unified School District from having won several school-wide competitions.
Most importantly, the programs have instilled discipline, patience, compromise and punctuality –among other skills – in generations of students.
People like Carlos Olivas and Yesenia Gonzalez.
Olivas, 16, arrived in the United States six years ago from Guadalajara, Mexico. He plays the vihuela and guitar in the school’s mariachi band.
“I don’t know what I would do without mariachi music,” he said.
Gonzalez, a senior, is in her fourth year with the school’s marching band and wants to pursue a career in music.
“It has taught me to be a better musician and a better person,” she said.
“Now, other students will get the chance to enjoy and learn the things the band has given to me.”
Both the mariachi group and the marching band performed during a music assembly on Nov. 30. There was also a special presentation by recording artist Ally Brooke from the group Fifth Harmony.