February 2024 TODA News

Get Inspired by Our Latest TODA Member Spotlight/Interview: Starting a Mariachi Program!

Klein Collins High School orchestra director Carlos Lara has a successful mariachi program on his campus that was recently created, at first as an after-school club, and now, as a class. In the two years since its inception, the program has seen significant growth and success evidenced by two consecutive qualifications to the UIL State Mariachi festival. In his youth, Mr. Lara played with a professional mariachi band while growing up in Corpus Christi, TX but stepped away from the art form for over 20 years. With the help of his colleague Tanner Ledford, Mr. Lara has rekindled the excitement of this genre of music with his students. We asked him some questions about how he got this started.

1. What are the benefits of starting a mariachi program on your campus?

Personally, I’ve seen a lot of benefits from our mariachi program. Every student involved has significantly improved their rhythmic awareness, tuning, technical precision, ensemble stability, and musical phrasing. This is evidenced by several mariachi students earning higher placements or promotions in their respective band or orchestra class. However, most striking to me was the social/emotional breakthroughs I’ve witnessed since hybrid learning ceased. Teachers across the board have expressed a noticeable difference in mariachi student’s engagement, excitement, and emotional wellness in their class.

2. How do you approach administration about starting mariachi?

It seems that in the last year, I’ve been called by teachers who’ve been approached by their own administration about starting a mariachi program. Very recently, there has been a surge in school districts wanting exposure of this art form to students. However, I would say to any individual wanting to start their own mariachi program, to utilize the expressed and focused interest of a student demographic wanting and willing to come together to make it a possibility. In my opinion, if a large enough group of students want the program, and their energy can be unified with the aid of a music teacher, the administration will be more likely to accept, support, and cultivate an appropriate environment for a mariachi program.

3. What curriculum or books do you use?

I think an excellent resource to start with is Jeff Nevin’s Mariachi Mastery instructional methods published by Neil A Kjos. This is a sequenced method based on mastery of mariachi styles and rhythms with a pedagogical approach. Orchestra, band, and choir teachers who are not familiar with the traditional instruments of the mariachi such as viheula, guitar, and guitarron can find an approach for themselves as well as their students. Over time, building a network with fellow mariachi educators, joining organizations like TAME, and seeking out local resources at the university or professional level is key to building a music library of repertoire and instructional material. Ultimately, sending students to mariachi training camps or attending teacher workshops can give your mariachi program a significant boost.

4. What instruments would you need to have in a mariachi ensemble?

To start: classical nylon guitar, violin, trumpet, and the willingness to vocalize. The bass part, traditionally performed on a “guitarron” can be substituted with pizzicato string bass until one can be acquired. In time, the introduction of a “vihuela” which a guitar player with experience can transition to, will help to create the traditional sound of a mariachi. For more advanced mariachi programs, a Jalisco or Veracuzana style harp, and guitarra de golpe can accentuate and add more depth to the sound of the mariachi.


Now Accepting Intern Applications for the 2024 Summer Convention


TODA Volunteer Opportunities

TODA is proudly powered by volunteerism! Whether you'd prefer to work behind-the-scenes or front & center with a microphone, TODA is in need of your time and talents. Please consider joining our IDEA Committee, helping out at Summer Convention, or collaborating with our Board members on a local TODA event. Ready to sign up? Visit to complete a quick online form, and a member of our Executive Board will reach out to you with more information.


2024 TODA Invited Ensemble Application - Opens February 5, 2024

The goal of the TODA Invited Ensemble initiative is to invite a variety of ensembles representative of the robust music education that is happening across our state. Through this program, TODA hopes to feature different genres, socioeconomic levels, and ages. 

We are excited to announce the continuation of student performing ensembles for the 2024 Summer Convention. We are looking for two small sized performing ensembles to perform at various points throughout the convention. We would like to invite two performing ensembles across the following categories:

  1. Middle School/High School Chamber ensemble
  2. Special Ensembles (Mariachi, eclectic styles, unique instrumentation, etc.)

Invited Ensembles will perform at either the TODA General Session or the Awards Ceremony in addition to performing at a scheduled time in the Exhibit Hall. 

A committee of TODA members will adjudicate all recordings submitted and select two groups to invite.

For more information and to view the criteria please vist


TODA Scholarships for High School Seniors and Undergraduate Students

TODA is pleased to offer multiple scholarships for high school seniors and undergraduate students studying music education. Visit to apply by April 30, 2024.


TODA Silent Auction Donations

TODA is now accepting member donations for our Silent Auction to be held online at our annual summer convention in San Antonio, TX.  Members attending the convention will be able to see all physical items in-person at the TODA Fiesta on Friday, July 26.  If you have item(s) you would like to donate to the Silent Auction please complete the Silent Auction Donation Form.  Physical items can be mailed to TODA, 2418 Spring Lane, #50250, Austin, TX 78703, OR can be delivered directly to the registration counter during the convention.

Proceeds from the TODA Silent Auction help fund many of the programs and benefits offered to our members.


Dissertation Survey Responses Needed

My name is Marina McLerran and I am earning a Ph.D. in Music Education at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. I need instrumental ensemble directors or music education majors to serve as volunteer participants. I am asking for approximately fifteen minutes of your time to evaluate two short videos of chamber ensemble performances, using an online assessment measure that I have developed. The assessments will be completed independently on your own device. All responses will be kept anonymous. Participation in this study is voluntary and will not be compensated, but I thank you in advance for helping me to complete a requirement for my degree. If you would like to volunteer to participate in this study, please see the link below or email me at [email protected]. Thank you again for your time!


TODA Has a Free Job Board

Directors: Browse Available Job Postings on our searchable Job Board.

Employers: Post full-time and part-time opportunities for music educators, church and community ensemble conductors and musicians.


Contact Info:

Texas Orchestra Directors Association
PO Box 50250, Austin, TX 78763
Phone: 512-474-2801
Email: [email protected]