Media Contacts:
Mark Sullivan / Nick Scurfield
On the Mark Communications




HOUSTON, Texas – Houston Cinema Arts Society today announces that it is partnering with Talento Bilingüe de Houston, Latino Public Broadcasting, Houston Public Media, MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), and Houston Grand Opera to present a screening of MARIACHI HIGH, a one-hour documentary for national public television that will take viewers on a transformative and spirited journey into the dreams and dramas of Mexican American teenage-hood, through the soulful and vibrant lens of a competitive mariachi ensemble.

The screening will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27 at Talento Bilingüe de Houston, located at 333 S. Jensen Drive. A reception featuring coastal Mexican cuisine will be hosted by La Fisheria and its famous executive chef from Villahermosa, Mexico, Aquiles Chavez, prior to the screening at 6:00 p.m. In addition, following the film, a question and answer session will take place with one of the documentaryʼs directors, Ilana Trachtman, and students and alumni from MECA will conduct a short mariachi performance. Directed by Trachtman and Kim Connell and produced by Kelly Sheehan and Trachtman, MARIACHI HIGH documents a year in the life of competitive high school mariachi musicians in the top-ranked ensemble Mariachi Halcon in the small border town of Zapata, Texas. While the competitors at Zapata High are featured in the film, MARIACHI HIGH looks at the bigger picture of kids in more than 500 school districts from California to North Carolina who spend their Saturdays rehearsing the art of Mariachi. Only the best ultimately compete for numerous championship titles every year. In the 56-minute documentary, cinematographer Guy Mossman and editor Kim Connell capture the flash and fire of musical virtuosity, dramatic costumes, personal struggles and inspiring triumphs. In all, MARIACHI HIGH turns a positive lens on passionate young people finding their own unique voices through a connection to their cultural heritage. The brilliance of the music and the way the studentsʼ participation in the band motivates them academically speaks to a broad audience.

“The genesis for this film came in 2000 when Ilana, Kim and I were working on a special TV series on childrenʼs issues and the benefits of arts programs. We produced a story about an inschool mariachi program in Tucson, Arizona. It was striking to see the positive impact that the program had on the kids, and also the parents, who became more involved with their childrenʼs school as a result of the mariachi program,” said Kelly Sheehan, producer of MARIACHI HIGH and Executive Producer for Rubylake  Productions. “By 2005, the popularity of these mariachi programs was growing across the U.S. We knew we had to explore the topic further. We were fortunate that Latino Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts wanted to support the project from the start.”

After several years of research and development, Rubylake Productions started filming in the 2010/2011 school year, following the teenagers at Zapata High School. The competitions featured in the film took place in San Antonio, Texas, in 2010 and 2011; José “Pepe” Martínez, one of Mexicoʼs most famous mariachi leaders, served as the host of one of the competitions. Martínez is somewhat of a celebrity, serving as music director of one of the most famous and prestigious mariachi ensembles in the world, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. In addition, he served as the composer of the worldʼs first mariachi opera – To Cross the Face of the Moon /Cruzar la Cara de la Luna for HGOco, Houston Grand Operaʼs unique community collaborative initiative, which premiered in Houston in 2010 and opened the season at Parisʼs Théâtre du Châtelet in the fall of 2011. “These mariachi programs anchor the kids in the schools. The cultural hook entices them to join, while the competition and pride of participation keeps them rooted in the program and in their academics,” explained Sheehan. “Many of the kids in the mariachi programs are top-ranked students in their schools.”

MARIACHI HIGH premieres on PBS on June 29 at 9:00 p.m. as the opening film for the PBS Summer Arts Festival, which expands the scope and diversity of the arts on television, with a multi-part weekly series and new original online content that takes viewers across the country and around the world. As one music director explained it best, “Students come to school to read and write and do arithmetic. Playing mariachi gives them something to write about and something to read about. This is what gives them their voice. I think thatʼs what education is all about.” RSVP is required to attend the screening at Talento Bilingüe de Houston. Log on to and click on MARIACHI HIGH in the middle of the home page. Additionally, for those who are unable to attend the screening, viewers can watch MARIACHI HIGH on Houstonʼs PBS Channel 8 at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, June 29th.


Houston Cinema Arts Society is a non-profit organization created in 2008 with the support of former Houston Mayor Bill White and the leadership of Franci Crane. HCAS organizes and hosts the annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, a groundbreaking and innovative arts festival featuring films and new media by and about artists in the visual, performing and literary arts.  The festival celebrates the vitality and diversity of the arts in Houston and enriches the city’s film and arts community. HCAS sponsors include the Crane Foundation, a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Levantine Entertainment, Houston First Corporation, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Champion Energy Services, Amegy Bank of Texas, The Brown Foundation, Inc. and others. The project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission on the Arts. The 2013 Houston Cinema Arts Festival was held Nov. 6-10. For more information, please visit HCAS at

About Talento Bilingüe de Houston
Talento Bilingüe de Houston continually offers to the public, artistic programs which include film screenings, exhibit and performances. The organizationʼs mission is to educate all by preserving, presenting and promoting Latino Arts and Culture. For more information please visit

About MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts)
MECA is a community-based nonprofit organization committed to the healthy development of underserved youth and adults through arts and cultural programming, academic excellence, support services and community building. MECA programs are nationally recognized for producing talented student artists. Such recognition includes being designated a Point of Light by President George H. W. Bush and being named a four-time semi-finalist for the Presidentʼs Committee on the Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller Award. Student ensembles and artists also are known for their talent and achievements; recently, the National Endowment named the advanced Mariachi ensemble an American Masterpieces Touring Ensemble for the Arts.

About Rainlake Productions
Rainlake is an innovative full-service production company specializing in non-fiction work. Our company is comprised of award winning and internationally recognized Writers, Directors, Producers, Cinematographers and Editors who bring together decades of experience in documentary storytelling. We manage projects from inception to final delivery. We produce original programming for film, television and the digital world, and bring this powerfully authentic voice to our corporate clients. Areas of expertise include health care, philanthropy, green tech, finance, and the arts. For more information please visit

About Latino Public Broadcasting
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is the leader of the development, production, acquisition and distribution
of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses
issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the
public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB has provided over 150
hours of programming to public media and awarded over eight million dollars to independent producers
through its funding initiatives. In 2006, LPB launched Voces, the first series showcasing the best of the
Latino culture on public television. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the
United States. Latino Public Broadcasting is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media, the umbrella organization of HoustonPBS (KUHT) and Houston Public Radio (KUHF and KUHA), is a fully professional broadcast service on Houstonʼs Channel 8, 88.7 FM, 91.7 FM, HD Digital, and streaming world-wide on Internet radio stations KUHF News and Classical 91.7. HoustonPBS and Houston Public Radio are supported financially by listener-members, by gifts from the greater Houston community. KUHT, KUHF and KUHA are licensed to the Board of Regents of the University of Houston and operate in the public interest as a community outreach of the University. More information at , and

About HGOco
Through HGOco, Houston Grand Opera creates opportunities for Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to observe, participate in, and create art. Its Song of Houston project is an ongoing initiative to create and share work based on stories that define the unique character of our city and its diverse cultures. Since 2007, HGOco has commissioned ten new works along with countless innovative community projects, reaching more than 750,000 people in the greater Houston area.