Sunday, May 20, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on April 8th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 5 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 5

The Righetti Marimba Band and Ballet Folklorico prepares for its annual 'Big Show'


Ricardo Gabaldón (pictured left) has had to rely more on student leaders to help keep his Marimba Band and Ballet Folklorico programs on point now that the two ensembles share a class period, he explained.

Righetti High School Marimba Band and Ballet Folklórico director Ricardo Gabaldón was hurrying between rooms, touching base with the various factions of his cultural performing arts program during a recent school day. The Marimba Band and Ballet Folklórico have each enjoyed their own class period throughout the years, the soon-to-retire founding director explained, but this last year is different. Due to the number of students involved in the program, both classes merged as one.

“It’s chaotic. Chaotic and loud,” he said over a PA system being used for the Folklórico dancers, which was also competing with the sound from a full marimba band from the next room over.

Through another corridor and down a ramp he checked in on the Marimba Band’s maraca players, who also perform choreographed dance numbers with the band. Then, with a boom box underarm, he accompanied a brass player from the band; after setting up the stereo next to a vending machine outside his class, he tutored the student over a page of sheet music.

“We’ve had to rely much more heavily on student leaders,” he explained, now that each faction was rehearsing efficiently, “because it’s a chaotic, confusing environment. You’ve got two groups that require amplified sound, and the most I can be with them is 50 percent of the time.”

It’s not the way Gabaldón planned to organize his last year at Righetti High School, but he’s committed, like his students, to putting on the best performance possible for the upcoming “Big Show.” The show features Latin and Latin American music performed by the Marimba Band, as well as traditional folk dances of various states of Mexico performed by the Ballet Folklórico, a tradition that started nearly 40 years ago when Gabaldón founded the program.

“I started teaching here in 1974, and it was the following year when I organized the Marimba Band and Ballet Folklórico through the Title 7 program, designed to develop bilingual and bicultural education here at Righetti High School,” he said. “Title 7 evaporated after about five years, and I was absorbed by the district, so the program continued. In fact, it’s the sole program remaining from the Title 7 project.”

Back then, Gabaldón didn’t see further than getting Latino students at Righetti involved in the cultural life of the school and providing an outlet for expression to build confidence and acceptance on campus.

Catch the 'Big Show'
The Righetti High School Marimba Band and Ballet Folklórico presents its 39th annual “Big Show” performance on April 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ethel Pope Auditorium, Santa Maria High School, Broadway and Morrison, Santa Maria. Cost is $12, $10 in advance. More info: 937-2051, Ext. 2502, or

“The 1970s was a difficult time, pretty turbulent overall, and it was a time of radical change in United States, and our community was no different,” he said. “The bottom line is, over the years, this group has become deeply entrenched in the culture of the school and the community overall.”

Gabaldón’s decades’ worth of students have acted as role models, not just to their peers at the high school, but to younger kids at the elementary and junior high schools at which the ensembles perform. The most interested youngsters are most likely to sign up for the program when they graduate to high school.

“There are so many individuals who have contributed to this group, we are always looking for talented individuals,” he said. “We’ve been successful because we’ve had this kind of never-ending talent supply, including students who transfer from other school areas just to be a part of our group.”

I need to take a minute for some full disclosure, because my own younger brother, James Payne, played bass in the Marimba Band while he was at Righetti, where I was also a student (some more disclosure: Gabaldón was my history teacher). Despite my brother’s obvious Anglo-ness—his instrument before the bass was Scottish bagpipes—he was a welcomed and appreciated part of the group. He certainly learned many rhythms and styles new to him and made lots of friends.

Gabaldón’s model has been more than a success for the campus, but also for the students in the program. Many alumni will lend a hand in helping with band rehearsals, musicianship, teaching dance steps, or pitching in with hairdressing on performance days. He’s hoping that his son will take the reins in his stead, but knows the program will stay successful no matter what, based on the level of involvement and commitment from his students, their parents, and the community.

“The program will continue; we have the commitment of the district and the administration here,” he said. “When we play for the little kids, you can see their eyes getting larger than life, and you can see they want to be a part of our group when we perform at the ‘Big Show,’ and they want to lend a hand in this performance that has been embraced and accepted by the community.”


The bigger, the better

The Santa Maria Mussell Senior Club hosts “Big Band Dance Concerts” featuring Riptide Big Band performing monthly including April 13 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the Elwin Mussell Senior Center, 510 Park Ave., Santa Maria. Cost is $10. More info: (775) 843-2830 or


Make a ‘Rendezvous’

The Santa Maria Philharmonic presents its “Rendezvous House Concert Series” featuring Musica Elegante in an intimate house concert on April 13 at 3 p.m. at a private home in Santa Maria. Cost is $40; reservations are required. More info: 925-0412 or


Decades of rock on tap

The Radisson Hotel offers live music Fridays and Saturdays, including Juan Marquez performing April 11 and 12 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, 3455 Skyway Dr., Santa Maria. More info: 928-8000.


Cruise by

The Santa Maria Inn Tap Room features a live performance by the Drive-In Romeos on April 12 from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria. More info: 928-7777 or


Live in Old Down

The D’Vine Wine Bar and Bistro features This Valley live on April 12, Audition Night on April 15, Dan Mally on April 16, and Jerry Stickell on April 17, with shows starting at 7:30 p.m. at the D’Vine Wine Bar and Bistro, 107 W. Ocean Ave., Lompoc. More info: 430-8356 or


Get flowing

Creative Juices presents live music, including Anthony Roselli on April 11 and The Stupifyers on April 12, performing from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Creative Juices Lounge, 874 Guadalupe St., Guadalupe. More info: 219-0518 or


Wine, food, and music

Ca’ Del Grevino Café and Wine Bar features live music in the tasting room and café on Wednesdays including Chris Beland on April 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Ca’ Del Grevino Café and Wine Bar, 400 E. Clark, Suite A, Orcutt. More info: 937-6400,, or


Maverick jams

The Maverick Saloon offers live entertainment, including a “DJ Rock Party” on April 11 at 9 p.m. and a “Concert on the Deck” featuring Carmen and the Gang on April 12 at 3 p.m. Carmen and the Renegade Vigilantes perform on April 12 at 8 p.m., followed by “Late Night with guest DJs” at 11:30 p.m. “Suds, Song, and Sandwiches” will feature “The Belmores and Friends” live on April 13 at 3 p.m., with free admission. “Tales from the Tavern” presents “An Evening with John McEuan” on April 16 at 7 p.m. at the saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. More info: 686-4785 or

Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at

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