Los Lobos recruit White Elementary mariachi program members to open Tucson show

2014-04-24T00:00:00Z Los Lobos recruit White Elementary mariachi program members to open Tucson showBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Los Lobos will have some very special guests when the band takes the stage at the Rialto Theatre Friday night.

The East Los Angeles rock outfit has recruited members from the after-school mariachi program at John E. White Elementary School as its opening act.

Thirty young musicians and folklórico dancers — made up of first- through fifth-graders — will perform for 15 minutes before being joined by Los Lobos for a couple of songs.

“We are working on our set now,” said Bill Mark, a kindergarten teacher and the program’s adviser. “We have several songs ready to go.”

The chance to watch his students perform with Los Lobos is a thrill to Mark, who started the mariachi program at the southwest-side elementary school more than two years ago.

Mark has been a huge fan of the band for decades.

The first time he saw Los Lobos perform was at The Wildcat House in 1983.

“I heard them for the first time at Discount Records on University,” Mark said. “I walked in and ‘How Will the Wolf Survive?’ was playing. I was floored at the way these guys were moving from one genre to another. I was so taken by it.”

More than three decades later, Mark is still listening. When he heard the group was coming to Tucson as part of its latest tour, he thought he’d shoot them an email.

His initial goal was to see if a couple members would be willing to come to the school, at 2315 W. Canada St., and talk to the students.

“Their management emailed me the next day and asked if the kids would be able to play at the show instead,” Mark said. “I wasn’t really expecting a response, so this was a huge surprise.”

The mariachi program’s performance group has been working on some of its regular songs for the show, as well as Los Lobos’ hits such as “Los Ojos de Pancha” and “Flor de Huevo” from the 1978 release “Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles.”

Mark said the parents are more excited than the students that the event is happening.

“They all want comp tickets to the show,” he said. “The kids are like, ‘Well, it is not Katy Perry.’ But they are getting more excited as the adults get excited.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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