Top Ranked Mariachi Band Tapped to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Last week, ITVS filmmaker Ilana Trachtman joined the mariachi band comprised of students featured in the LPB-supported film Mariachi High for a performance at the Naval Observatory Residence for the fourth annual reception in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (running Sept 15 – Oct 15). The documentary, which kicked-off PBS’s Arts Festival last year, spent a year in the life of top-ranked members of Zapata High School’s championship mariachi ensemble on the Rio Grande in South Texas. Mariachi High director Ilana Trachtman offered BTB this report from the event.

Vice President Joe Biden talks to High School Mariachis from Zapata Texas on the front porch of the Naval Observatory Residence, before a Hispanic Heritage month Reception, September 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

As documentary filmmakers, we always hope that our stories will take exciting and unexpected turns while our cameras are rolling. It’s pretty exciting when the unexpected happens during outreach as well.

A serendipitous series of events brought 18 of the current mariachi musicians from Zapata High School to the Naval Observatory Residence, to play for Latino leaders across the country at Joe Biden’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

The Vice President’s social secretary was looking for a student mariachi to play at the party; he happened to call one of Mariachi High’s advisors, who told him that while there are no D.C. student mariachi groups, the Texas All-State champions happened to be coming to Washington for the screening of the film at National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival. The rest, as they say …was history.

The same star quality that led us to choose the band for Mariachi High shined brightly for Biden and all the guests. The highlight for me was when five-foot tall high school senior Ashley Guzman introduced Vice President Biden with so much poise, humor, and cleverness that Biden spent the first 90 seconds of his talk applauding Ashley, and asking if she’d coach him for his upcoming debate!

Read more about the Vice President’s Hispanic Heritage celebration from the White House blog.