18 players, 5 chaperones, and marimba music was what one week was about for the Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble. The ensemble took off for a week long trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. They were joined by the San Gabriel Mission Marimba Ensemble, a brand new ensemble with just one year of history, but also with a lot of aspirations to excel in their marimba group in San Gabriel, California. This week long trip brought many surprises for both groups.
The Ensembles were meant to meet the next day for a practice to make sure the music that would be played collaboratively would not present problems on concert days. The practice did not end up happening, and there was nervousness as to how the music would come out. On the first gig, the groups played making very little minor mistakes. The groups then resumed to play three perfect concerts despite not practicing once. It was a showcase of skill and hope that no obstacle will come across a great performance.
Both groups toured Ft, Lauderdale Florida’s oceanic views and went through a meditation day in Stone Mountain, Georgia where they visited the Martin Luther King Jr museum and climbed Stone Mountain. They finished their last concert in front of an energized crowd cheering for the music of both ensembles. Both ensembles were asked to share their dream to the crowd in Corpus Cristi Parish. 18 powerful dreams being said in person not only gives people thoughts of support, but makes them think of the power of youth and young leaders have.
Connections make life more beautiful. Some understand, and some are just discovering what these connections are all about. Sometimes, the reason for connections are unknown and take time to understand why. Although, why must it make sense? As long as there is happiness, maybe they don’t have to make sense. Both groups shared smiles as they went through this week long trip, why question happiness and instead relish the moment? It was a trip that showed the evolution not only of the Holy Cross/ Marimba Ensemble, but of two marimba ensembles and connections in life. These words were said last year as well, and that is that the future looks bright. Throughout everything, there is always more good than bad, no matter what the circumstance may be. Alone, you’re great, but connecting makes everything so much better.
The Marimba Ensemble will be performing at the 2014 Fiesta de Sol festival. The ensemble performs on Sunday, August 3rd. The Ensemble is expected to play at noon for about an hour before the mass begins. The mass will be a mass dedicated to Dreamers, undocumented students. Fiesta del Sol is open to the public and is located in the Pilsen neighborhood. The ensemble is happy to play this gig which is 3 days before their summer road trip to Florida and Georgia.
The Marimba Ensemble will be headed for Florida and Georgia as part of their 2014 Summer trip. The Ensemble will have three gig to keep them busy as they prepare to travel in August.
The group will perform in the Jazz Festival as part of the lineup. This event will also be a first for the Ensemble similar to Make Music Chicago. The Ensemble then performs for a fundraiser at the Shed Aquarium. The Ensemble has never performed at this venue as well. The Ensemble then performs for the Fiesta del Sol festival in Pilsen neighborhood on Sunday, August 3rd. Another first before the group heads for their road trip three days later. These three events are all in events the group has never played for, so the addition of these events certainly show that the future is bright for the ensemble as they continue to get invited to prestigious events.
The Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble kicked off their summer with a first time event. The annual Make Music Chicago, a one day music filled attraction across the city showcasing musicians, was going to cross paths with the Marimba Ensemble for the first time ever. The Holy Cross parish partnered with Rush Hour Concerts to create new music programs around the parish and help existing ones. The Marimba Ensemble was affected in the form of a spotlight in Make Music Chicago 2014. The Ensemble would be sharing the stage with the Third Coast Percussion and Sones de Mexico Ensemble. The ensemble had separate practices alongside these two ensembles to prepare for the concert on June 21st, the first day of Summer. The practices lasted for five months that included three collaborative pieces in which all three groups would take part in playing.
The event was outside of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Chicago. The ensemble was filled with excitement as they played two of their signature pieces and the collaborative pieces. One of the collaborative pieces was La Negra Tomasa, a song the ensemble plays that also has a lot of emotion for the ensemble members. Overall the concert proved to be a success and hinted a successful Summer for the Marimba Ensemble. This was the first of many events this summer for these young musicians.
by Jorge Ocampo
For each of us, there are a number of experiences and stories just waiting to be discovered. Some stories are the kind we want to hear about or have heard legends about. One example is the story of the underdogs surviving against all odds. In Chicago, Illinois rests an underdog story known by many. In this particular story, a group of musicians demonstrate that despite the neighborhood where they come from, they continue to do positive things. This is the Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble.
The group has history spanning two decades, and in those two decades were many groups of youth playing the Marimba, a xylophone like instrument with a deeper pitch. The Marimba Ensemble program was founded by former Holy Cross pastor Father Bruce Wellems. Fr. Bruce became a mentor to the youth of the ensemble in its early years. That leadership that Fr. Bruce showed them proved to be contagious because those same youth began mentoring new players. Those same new players would grow to become talented musicians and teach the new students. It is because of this cycle that the Marimba Ensemble plays for many events in the city of Chicago such as wedding receptions and fundraisers. The group has even traveled around the country ranging from the capitol of the nation to the high altitudes of Denver. Instead of keeping the money for personal use, the money is used to raise money for scholarships so the students of the Back of the Yards will have support in their dreams. The program certainly looks like a blessing on paper, but who exactly are these youth that perform?
The Back of the Yards neighborhood does not possess the safest reputation, but every mile of darkness is home to light. The youth of the ensemble today are applauded for their musical talents on stage. They get to feel like stars for performances, but they lead lives of other youth that live in the same neighborhood as they do. School is something very important that the youth care for. They were motivated that through hard work and perseverance, they can reach their dreams. School is not something that is a walk in the park for anyone because the difficult exams catch up, the amount of homework piles up, and the expectations on grades are pressuring. The youth are human beings, so they go through family problems that everyone goes through. Often times, youth in this position look for a getaway to escape from reality for just a bit. For these youth, that escape is music.
These youth came together as strangers with the same ambitions of playing for the Marimba Ensemble. Through all their time in the ensemble, they have developed a leadership hard to find in other youth their age. They started as “rookies” questioning themselves at their ability to become leaders, now they have grown into leaders and are helping new students. Some are still learning on what it means to be a leader, and those same ones are proud of themselves for not giving up. This leadership is what the world needs, and it rests in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in these young musicians.
The Marimba has done so much for these youth, and the youth have done so much for the marimba. That is the belief that runs in the minds of these musicians. The long songs that the youth learn helps them in school, and the music they produce helps bring joy to audiences who forget about their problems and clap for the music being created. The youth also shut down their problems. No problems exist when this family unites to play music. They are the youth of the Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble. They are the underdogs of life coming out of the Back of the Yards neighborhood. When asked what they would tell to people that know nothing of them, they would tell them simply “we are hope for the community.” They are hope for the world as well. I have witnessed all this as their teacher and can attest to their words. This is who we are.
Recently the Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble was featured in WTTW Chicago by Yasmin Rammohan.
“The Holy Cross – Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble was founded in 1991 by Father Bruce Wellems, and is made up entirely of youth, ages 12-21, from the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The Ensemble has been a sound of neighborhood hope for more than 18 years performing at Holy Cross Church every Sunday at the 10:30 am Mass, accompanying a large Children’s Choir. The Ensemble also performs throughout the City of Chicago and around the country.”
To visit the web page please click here or visit http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/01/09/marimba-ensemble
This summer the Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble traveled to the Southwest of the USA. Starting in Nebraska the Ensemble performed for the local grammar school at Boys Town, they then headed to Colorado for a summer concert series in Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts in which in their free time they enjoyed lunch from one of their hostess. Some members of the ensemble experience horseback riding, camping, and the stars for the first time during this trip.
The ensemble camp over night at Mesa Verde where many of the kids it was the first time seeing the stars. After Mesa Verde they headed down to Arizona. They arrived at Prescott, AZ where they performed for Saturday (English) and Sunday(Spanish) mass followed by a small concert after each mass at Sacred Heart parish. Thank you for your kind hospitality that the ensemble received while in Prescott, the kids really enjoyed the time there.
The ensemble later headed to New Mexico where they performed for a small mass and a pool party. They were static to be in the town of Placitas this has been one of many visits to that state. After performing in New Mexico the ensemble headed back to Colorado for another concert series. On their free time the ensemble visited Este National Park where they were able to go up to an elevation of 12,000 feet. After performing in Colorado they bid farewell to the state and headed back to their home town of Chicago where they had a performance for the Merian Village.
The ensemble would like to thank all of their host and people they met through out their tour. We hope you enjoyed our music as much as we enjoyed performing for you. Hope to see everyone again, and next time your in Chicago please stop by Holy Cross/IHM Parish were the Marimba Ensemble performs every Sunday at 10:30 am.