UnidosNow, a local nonprofit that works to empower the Hispanic and Latino community, is hosting NocheUnidos, a two-day fundraising extravaganza, next week featuring music programming ranging from mariachi to classical. Mariachi Cobre, a 51-year-old band from Tuscon, Arizona, and the Venice Symphony, a 72-person orchestra, will perform at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20, and at the Venice Institute for Performing Arts at 2:30 p.m. Saturday May 21.
The groups will be led by Michelle Merrill, Music Director of The Coastal Symphony of Georgia. Her musical journey began in high school as a drum major, and she has been involved in music ever since. Mariachi Cobre personally asked him to direct NocheUnidos due to his dynamic performances, his passion and his time working with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.
“The first half of the concert will be traditional for the symphony orchestra, then the second half will see Mariachi Cobre steal the show,” Merrill explains. “There will be 60 pieces in total, so a focus on the different instruments and the sounds they produce.”
Mariachi Cobre is well known for their memorable performances at EPCOT’s Mexican pavilion since 1982. The group has performed for millions, not only at the Disney park, but also on tour with artists from other genres, such as the Mexican-American singer Vikki. Carr. Mariachi Cobre will perform alongside the Venice Symphony, made up of musicians led by musical director Troy Quinn.
“Music has always been my favorite thing. The power of music, the human spirit, the psyche involved and its healing power connects people,” says Merrill. “I hope the audience will be really satisfied at the end of the concert. A lot of people think they don’t like these kinds of styles, but the music comes alive when you hear live music. It’s a great cause, not just great music.”
All funds raised during NocheUnidos will go to UnidosNow programs which provide academic success resources primarily to low-income students. The event also aims to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of UnidosNow, even though the organization is 12 years old. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed earlier plans for a celebration.
In a press release, UnidosNow Board Chairman and former Sarasota City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner called the concerts a “metaphor [for] UnidosNow’s work in the region over the past 12 years.”
“We seek to present an alternative to the xenophobia that is all too common in our state and our nation in 2022, especially when it comes to immigrants from Latin America,” Kirschner says. “The combination of these musical groups not only creates an incredibly rich sound. The two build on each other in an additive way that is symbolic of how immigration is not a sum game. nothing.”
NocheUnidos takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at the Venice Institute for Performing Arts, 1 Indian Ave., Venice. Tickets cost between $30 and $120.