El Ballet Folklórico— Community Mariachi Band to Travel Abroad in order to Gain Experience and Knowledge for UM-Flint

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Although the music program has gone through a few changes recently, nothing stops the passion of its ensembles.

Alphonse Buclay, a recent graduate with a major in music education and a minor in psychology, is a member of the community-based mariachi band El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil. Buclay and 10 other members of the group will study at La Escuela de Mariachi Ollín Yolitzli en Garibaldi in Mexico City in order to learn more about the culturally significant music. This mariachi school has allowed the group to develop professionally in association with the UM-Flint music program and in their Mexico City campus.

El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil gives students the opportunity to learn traditional mariachi techniques, including guitar and folkloric dance, right here in Flint. The group has had a partnership with the music program since 2014 when Assistant Professor of Music Brian Di Blassio, helped them scout for talent to form the group. Many of its members are current UM-Flint students or alumni. "I wouldn't have met [El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil] without UM-Flint," said Buclay.

With the opportunity to travel to Mexico, the group will bring back their new grasp of mariachi music and dance to campus and develop curriculum for schools in Flint that don't offer music programs. 

"Our main goal is to help the Flint community. But in order to do that, we also need to enrich the college students here who are going to become future music educators," Buclay says.

Along with being a part of the mariachi band, Alphonse has also become a well-rounded music educator. He was a part of the wind symphony and flute ensemble in the program, "and the classes I took at UM-Flint really pushed me to not only address the classical side of music, but also look at the more diverse side of things." 

With this knowledge, Alphonse has realized his dream of becoming a music educator. He is a long-term substitute teaching job in the Davison School district, "fulfilling the responsibilities of directing Hahn Intermediate School's 5th and 6th-grade band classes." 

Along with the collaborative community effort of the mariachi group, the music program offers many opportunities to get involved with music on campus. There are many different ensembles including a brass quintet, the orchestra, a jazz ensemble, and a jazz combo, along with the wind symphony and flute ensemble. The best part – you don't need to be a music major to join any ensemble! 

"It doesn't matter if your only experience is high school experience. We'll find you a spot, we'll find you parts to play, and we'll make you feel as comfortable as possible," Buclay says.

With an array of options, anyone can find their place, and the program encourages anyone to "make music!" You can find a list of the music program's performance ensembles here, and information on the program itself on the UM-Flint website.

Eleni Batsios is a Marketing & Media Assistant with the Office of Marketing & Digital Strategies. She is a Communication major.