Music to Their Ears

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Posted January 16, 2008 by Static in News

Wanted: Certified teacher with expertise in guitar, violin, vihuela, trumpet, and guitarron, who can read and write music, speak English and Spanish, and sit in a room all day while munchkins butcher “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and not, like, go postal on the little brats.

Expect to see more classified ads like this one, now that the University Interscholastic League is making mariachi an approved competitive category beginning next school year. Mariachi music has long been popular in Texas and in a few Fort Worth schools, but a lack of UIL recognition gave it second-rate status – and, therefore, less funding.

That’s about to change. The Fort Worth school district’s director of fine arts, Michael Ryan, said mariachi musicians can now expect transportation by school buses to area UIL competitions, just like marching bands, athletes, and academic competitors. Money will also be needed for meals and hotel costs should a mariachi group qualify for the state championship. In all, about $15,000 a year should cover it – chicken feed compared to the inevitable cost of hiring new mariachi teachers. At some point, schools might have to rob Peter to pay Paul, and that’s when squabbles will start. Parents at several Northside schools recently complained to Fort Worth Weekly about the large percentage of money being spent on marching bands at the expense of mariachis (“Viva Mariachi!” Oct. 10, 2007). Still, this is an evolution, not a revolution, and change won’t come overnight. “It could be that instead of buying 15 trombones we buy 10 trombones and get the vihuelas and guitarrones we need,” Ryan said.

Have an opinion? Tell the school district. If the community speaks up, “We’ll do what we need to do to put the program in the schools,” he said.

Political Firefight
The saga involving former Fort Worth councilwoman Wendy Davis and her bid to run for Texas Senate against Republican incumbent Kim Brimer has caused even the most seasoned local politicos to scratch their heads. Three Fort Worth firefighters filed suit to stop Davis from running, claiming she did not resign from city council soon enough to run for state office under rules set out in the city charter and state constitution. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the case this week.
When the Fort Worth Professional Fire Fighters Association convinced voters last year to allow collective bargaining between the city and the union, they did it with the help of political consultant Bryan Eppstein. According to campaign finance reports, the union paid Eppstein’s company an astounding $224,000 to run that successful campaign. The Eppstein Group will also work on Brimer’s upcoming race against Davis, the Democratic candidate.

Eppstein picked up more than $150,000 from the Fort Worth mayor and council races last May, but none from Davis. She paid nearly $27,000 to The Tyson Organization, a Fort Worth-based campaign consulting firm and Eppstein competitor. “The connection between Brimer and Eppstein and the firefighters is clear as day on this,” said Davis campaign manager Matt Latham.
Brimer’s campaign staff would not comment, and Eppstein was not available. But firefighters association vice president Rob Gibson said the members who filed to stop Davis from running “were concerned Democrats who did not want to be left out in the cold if she was declared ineligible.” He said Davis’ opposition to collective bargaining was the reason the union is backing Brimer.

Politics, money, a union, and the courts. Looks like this race might be fun to watch.


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