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The 'strings' that are connecting Milwaukee Latino youth with their community and culture

The Latino Arts Strings Program (LASP) has been a pillar of music education and Latino culture for Milwaukee’s Latino families since 2002. The non-profit music education program was founded and continues to be directed by musician and instructor Dinorah Marquez at the United Community Center on the south side of Milwaukee. The award-winning program has been recognized both locally and nationally.

Two young women who were former students of the program now work as instructors with UCC’s up-and-coming strings musicians. Meet Gabi Moreno and Eli Avalos in the audio story below as they share their journey with the Latino Arts Strings Program and the importance of the program to the Latino community.

Moreno and Avalos both began their music careers at UCC by second grade. Avalos recalls seeing Marquez teaching students to play the “little guitar,” and it instantly drew her in. After applying to the program, their vigorous strings instruction began.

The cultural aspect of Latino Strings truly makes it a one-of-a-kind space in Milwaukee. The program teaches classical strings, but also focuses on cultural music in their curriculum, such as mariachi music. This allows students to have a deeper connection and understanding of their culture and families.

The two played under Marquez's instruction all throughout grade school and high school. Today, they both study music education and performance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They both will graduate next year.

When they’re not studying for school, they’re giving back to the community where they each got their first start. Moreno and Avalos both teach private violin and viola lessons for youth and high school students in the program.

The Latino Arts Strings Program performs at a number of events and celebrations around the city. For a schedule of upcoming performances, check out their website calendar here.