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Tucson’s “father of mariachi music” to be honored with statue

It’s an honor that doesn’t happen very often for a someone still with us but here in Tucson a statue will soon be unveiled of a very special person.

Alfredo Valenzuela started out teaching elementary school for TUSD but it was his love for mariachi music that would lead him to his life’s mission. Valenzuela is well known for combining his gifts for teaching and music to inspire thousands of children throughout a career spanning four decades. That is why many in the community want to make sure his legacy lives on.

He is considered the father of mariachi music in Tucson. 40 years ago he started in the classroom teaching elementary students for ten years. But it was his talent for music, specifically mariachi music, that landed him a job at as a music specialist at Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School. Valenzuela’s initial goal was to teach his students how to play and sing mariachi music but it wasn’t long before he realized what he was doing was having a much bigger impact.

“As time went on I saw the blessings or the great benefits that it brought to the kids and the love in their heart for music”, said Valenzuela, “And it really inspired me to keep on teaching.”

Valenzuela discovered learning how to perform mariachi music made children all around better students and he is now credited with revolutionizing bi-lingual education through his music program.

Valenzuela’s son, Jaime Valenzuela, has now taken over the program at Davis. He said his father’s legacy is carried on through his students.

“Everywhere you go you see musicians, mariachi musicians that have continued, made their life just like me with the music and whatever talent we learned at Davis”, said Jaime Valenzuela.

Those protege’s and many others have now come together to commission a statue of “Dr. V”, as he is affectionately called, to place in front of Davis.

While Valenzuela is honored, he said the real reward is when he hears from one of the students he’s had the pleasure of teaching the music he so deeply loves.

“A lot of my alumni they come and thank me directly, they tell me hey, you made a difference in my life because of the special things that you taught me with the music and boy that really touches me”, said Valenzuela, “It really puts a feeling in my heart of well being, of something very positive that I have done.”

Those he’s inspired are gathering today for a fundraiser to pay the artist to complete Dr. V’s statue. It’ll be held at the El Casino Ballroom, 437 E. 26th street. The dinner starts at 5 pm and the mariachi music starts at seven.

Sean Mooney

Sean Mooney is cohost of Tucson Today, Monday-Friday 5-7 am.

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