THE NACHA MENDEZ MUSIC SCHOLARSHIP
For New Mexican Girls Of Color
This summer Margarita Cordero, who performs as "Nacha Mendez," is initiating the Nacha Mendez Music Scholarship for New Mexican Girls of Color. (See statement below) Fundraising begins now, and the first scholarships will be awarded in January 2022. Two awards will be given to girls ages 8-15. The scholarships will be unrestricted so that funds can be applied where the need is greatest—music lessons, instrument purchase, travel expenses, or any cost that is essential to supporting access to learning.
We've set an ambitious goal of $10,000 for this campaign in order to finance the start-up of the scholarship program. Donations to The Start-Up Campaign will support scholarship funds, fundraising efforts, and a year-end budget that puts us in a good position to initiate the second round of scholarships.
The scholarship program will launch this fall with a nomination process involving music teachers and music programs in Northern New Mexico. Nominated girls will submit applications for review, and two recipients will be awarded in January 2022. Pending financial support, the second round of scholarships—to be awarded in September 2022—will expand both the number of scholarships given and the financial award amount and will be open to girls in all of New Mexico.
Margarita Cordero has assembled a panel of musicians and music industry experts to form the Scholarship Committee. Committee members are: Raven Chacon, Rafael Herrera, Carla Kountoupes, Mary Madigan, and Melanie Monsour.
The Nacha Mendez Scholarship Fund was established this spring with thanks to fiscal sponsor the New Mexico Music Commission Foundation. Donations made to the scholarship fund are tax deductible.
(Details about the scholarship application process will be available in August.)
I believe that music is a powerful catalyst for the kind of personal growth important to any life experience.
Growing up as a child of working class parents in Southern New Mexico, I learned early on of the importance of having music lessons, mentors, teachers, and the financial means to continue with music.
An early childhood accident at 7 years of age severed one of my middle fingers at the tip. My family was impacted by this, which meant they had to work extra hard to pay for my medical expenses. Many after-school afternoons were spent with my brother who took care of me by reading Dr. Seuss to me while eating cookies and milk or watching Lost in Space. It was a slow healing process, and I missed playing the plastic guitar my father had bought for me, but was happy to have my big brother by my side. Once, when my child guitar was by the window, the strong New Mexican sun melted a hole in it! My father patched it up with another piece of plastic from a plastic bottle, and we waited for me to get better while my parents saved up the money to buy me a bigger and better guitar.
I was miserable not being able to play my guitar. Months later, we ventured into Juarez, MX, about a 20-minute drive across the border, and my parents bought me a Tres Pinos guitar. I remember that day my mother told me, “Your brother is going to get braces in Juarez for his teeth, and you will get guitar lessons with Mr. Garcia.” I was so excited for what the future would bring.
My mother found a caring and patient teacher who worked with my disability. Mr. Garcia was a house painter by day and a drive-in movie projectionist by night. He ran the Joy Drive-in in Anthony, New Mexico. His whole family were musicians. They had a Mariachi group called La Familia Garcia. Every week I took lessons and, as painful as it was, little by little I began to heal my finger.
Consequently, in my career as a guitarist, I became a strong rhythm guitarist. Later in high school, I also took piano and voice lessons and went on to study at New Mexico State University.
It’s because of this life experience I continued with music studies and then performance. I believed in its powerful healing potential. Also, I knew early on that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I also knew lessons had to be paid for and that my parents had to fill up on a tank of gas to drive me to an audition or lesson in El Paso or Las Cruces. I also knew buying an instrument cost money or that my mother had to hire a seamstress to make me a nice dress to wear at my audition. My mother could not afford a new piano, so she bought a used one that had been in a fire. Miraculously, it played like a dream.
In 2018 I received the prestigious New Mexico Platinum Music Lifetime Achievement Award in the State of New Mexico. Soon after, my brother took me out to lunch to celebrate the award. I remember him saying, "This is a big honor, a big deal, now you need to start a scholarship." He planted the seed in my ear, and I listened. He passed away soon after.
Today, I share a little of my personal musical history, and that seed in my ear is now a reality called the Nacha Mendez Music Scholarship for New Mexican Girls of Color.
It’s my wish to contribute financially and as a mentor in inspiring a young musician who has the passion and dedication to continue and to discover the richness that a music education or career can provide in whatever capacity. It is my wish that this scholarship will also address the gender and racial imbalance within the music world and help overcome socio-economic barriers.
My mission will encourage and promote the art of instrumental and vocal performance in girls ages 8-15. I expect the recipients of the Nacha Mendez Music Scholarship for New Mexican Girls of Color will master the skills and acquire the knowledge that will lead to the highest quality of music performance in the state of New Mexico while empowering girls to discover their distinct and unique potential for years to come.
And lastly, I also believe, that when everyone has the passion and dedication, opportunity multiplies.
—Margarita Cordero aka Nacha Mendez, May 2021