Jackie Barrera’s gives her award-winning performance of Pepe Guízar’s anthem “El Mariachi” at last November’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Jackelyn “Jackie” Barrera was selected by members of the world-renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán as the ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist in the U.S.’ at the 20th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio, Texas, in November of 2014. She is currently a student at Roma High School in Roma, Texas and a member of the JV Roma Mariachi Santander, the group that accompanies her on this video.
Jackie and I chatted during her visit recent to San Antonio. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk about her experiences on La Voz Kids, her selection as ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist’ and her plans for the future. Hope you enjoy the interview!
CM: How old you, Jackie?
CM: When is your birthday?
JB: September 14th.
CM: How old were you when you started participating in mariachi music?
JB: I started singing at a very young age — like three years old. I remember singing “Como Una Flor,” which is one of Selena’s songs. I auditioned for the mariachi group at Ramiro Barrera Middle School, a beginners group, and then joined Varsity. I competed in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza vocal competition for the first time when I was in 7th grade and won second place. That was back in 2012.
CM: How has participation in the competition helped you improve your overall performance?
JB: My initial win was a great accomplishment, especially since it was my first year competing. It was a wonderful experience meeting so many talented vocalists. Each year, I learn something new and use that to improve my performance. I feel more comfortable singing now and have learned how to use the entire stage. My interpretation of the songs is much stronger in comparison to when I first started. Now I can feel the music and the meaning of the songs and perform them in a way that others can feel as well.
CM: How do you go about selecting the songs you sing for competition?
JB: The first year I competed in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, I sang “Marinero de Luces.” In 2013, I sang “Qué Bonita es Esta Vida.” Shaila Dúrcal sings this song, and I selected it not knowing that Mariachi Vargas had recorded it on one of their CDs. I won first place in the middle school category with this song. I really like upbeat material, so last year I competed with “El Mariachi,” and won the ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist in the U.S.’ award. It’s traditional, happy, and it fits my style. Once I hear a song that I really like, I stick with it.
CM: How did you come to audition for Telemundo’s La Voz Kids program?
JB: My sister told me about the show and the auditions in San Antonio. This was in November of 2013. I passed all three stages of the audition and received great comments from the judges. I sang “Y Volveré” and they really liked it. They passed me to the next stage and I sang “Ya Te Olvidé” by Mexican pop singer Yuridia. I made a judge cry with that song. The next level was an interview to see how well I spoke English and Spanish, and then, about a month later, they called to invite me to perform in Orlando, Florida as part of La Voz Kids in January, 2014.
CM: What was it like participating in La Voz Kids?
JB: It was my first time going to Orlando, and I had the opportunity to meet kids from Puerto Rico, Africa, Chicago, California and other places. We were home schooled during my stay there. I’ve always been shy and quiet and the teachers helped me overcome my shyness by encouraging me to speak in front of the class. In my blind auditions, all three coaches turned around — Prince Royce, Natalia Jiménez, and Roberto Tapia. I was about to choose Prince Royce, but I had seen how Roberto Tapia was humble and kind, and I liked his personality, so that’s why I chose him.
CM: What was one of your most memorable moments for you during La Voz Kids?
JB: Performing live in front of the celebrity judges was definitely a moment that I will remember forever. Also, when I was singing the long note during “La Bamba,” the entire audience got up and cheered. The audience’s reaction gave me incredible energy that kept me going strong.
CM: Who is your favorite artist?
JB: Aída Cuevas. She sings “El Mariachi,” which is the same song I won the Extravaganza’s ‘Best Mariachi Vocalist’ award with.
CM: What are some of your favorite songs?
JB: “El Mariachi,” “El Pastor,” and “Nunca Vuelvas” are three of my favorites.
CM: Who is your favorite mariachi group?
JB: Mariachi Vargas, of course. That’s my favorite guy group. My favorite girl group is Mariachi Reyna de Los Ángeles.
CM: What advice do you have for students interested in competing in this year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza?
JB: Choose songs that you can interpret to the audience, and choose a happy song. You get to show off more to the judges with happy songs. I try to choose songs that haven’t been overdone in the Extravaganza — songs that are a bit different. Choose a song early, and stick to it!!!
CM: Where do you get your trajes made?
JB: From a company in Monterrey, Nuevo León called Rodeo Country.
CM: They’re beautiful.
JB: Thank you!
CM: What are your plans after you graduate from high school?
JB: I’d like to study theater or music, and maybe become a mariachi director.
CM: Where would you like to go to college?
JB: UTPA, and maybe a college in New York City for theater arts.
CM: Do you have a wish?
JB: I love mariachi music. I listen to it 24-7. I wish I could decorate my entire room with mariachi posters.
CM: Well, I just happen to have some mariachi posters with me. Take these for your room.
JB: Thank you!