There was hardly 50 people in the audience shortly after 9 am on Saturday, December 7 at the start of the 25th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition – Elementary Category. Kaylee Bucio from Riverside Elementary in West Jordan, Utah followed was the second vocalist to perform that morning. She followed her friend Kimberly Jaramillo on stage at the Lila Cockrell Theatre. Alexa Posas and I listened to Kaylee, then looked at each other…jaws dropped and eyes wide open…. in surprise at what we had just seen and heard. Kaylee Bucios’ performance was astounding. At 8 years young, she performed Granada on pitch with gusto and animo equivalent to some of the most experienced singers. Her performance was simply outstanding.
Who is this kid from West Jordan, Utah?
She is the daughter of Maria Prudente and Israel Bucio and the student of Martha Aracely Chavez from Murray, Utah (about five minutes from West Jordan – a suburb of Salt Lake City).
Before we get into Kaylee’s interview with she and her family, you must know something about Martha. Martha is originally from Piedras Negras, Mexico and attended Brigham Young University where she studied Early Childhood Education. Both her parents –Catalina Yañez and Humberto Chavez – were singers in Mexico. Her father sang in the famous Trio Azteca de Mexico and appeared on Univision’s Siempre en Domingo entertainment show. Martha also studied voice at Brigham Young and other private institutions where she studied contemporary vocal techniques and opera and had plans to be an opera singer but switched to more contemporary music when she was young.
I had the pleasure of chatting via phone with Kaylee, her parents Maria and Israel and her vocal coach Martha. Here’s a snippet of our conversation:
Cynthia: Was this your first time participating in a vocal competition?
Martha: Kaylee has competed in vocal competitions in the past. She competed in the Regional Competition Access Broadway in Las Vegas in January where she won the Rising Star award in her category. She won Platinum in all categories with My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic, Granada and Where the Boys Are (Connie Francis Song). She took home a trophy and was invited to compete at the next level but opted out of Nationals due to various reasons.
Cynthia: How did you hear about the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza?
Martha: I was looking for mariachi music and came across MariachiMusic.com. I’ve known about the competition for a couple of years but didn’t feel like we were quite ready to enter. We entered five of our students from my school. The name of it is Vocal Techniques. Two of my students made it into the finals and that was Kaylee and Kimberly.
Cynthia: Where are you originally from Israel and how did you end up in West Jordan, Utah?
Israel: I moved from Morelia, Michoacan to Anaheim, California in 1994 and ended up in West Jordan, Utah almost 15 years ago. I felt there were better opportunities here. I work on maintaining the grounds at the Willow Creek Country Club Golf Course.
Cynthia: How did you connect with the Bucio family Martha?
Martha: Kaylee was in the Head Start Program and a couple of her friends were my students. Their parents recommended Kaylee to me. I didn’t want to take her because I thought she was too young. She was only 4 years old at the time but within six months, we turned a 15 minute vocal class into a 1 hour class. Kaylee only spoke Spanish so I was helping her with her English pronunciation. I’ve been working with Kaylee for almost 4 1/2 years pretty consistently. She’s one of my very dedicated students. A lot of times parents push their kids to learn but in this case Kaylee pushes her parents to take her to voice lessons. Often times they’ll pay for voice lessons first before taking care of basic necessities.
Kaylee practices every day Monday through Friday. She has a gift of pitch, has a great ear, and excellent memorization. She knows over 60 songs!
Cynthia: When did you first realize that your daughter had talent?
Maria: I use to listen to Jenny Rivera and Kaylee use to hear the music. Basta Ya was one of the first songs that Kaylee learned to sing when she was just 3 years old.
Cynthia: What did you think of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza?
Maria: Es un programa muy bonito. God blessed us with an opportunity that we didn’t expect. I never imagined that Kaylee would win the competition. It was a great door that opened for my daughter.
Martha: I was floored with the talent. It was amazing. I was so impressed, especially with the young middle school talent.
Cynthia: What were some of things people told you after you won?
Kaylee: Everyone was so nice to me. They said things like “I knew you were going to win,” “you sing good,” “I love how you sing.” They wanted to take pictures with me.
When I arrived back home to Utah, my whole family was waiting for me at the airport. My sister gave me a hug, and she never gives me hugs. This made me feel like winning was REALLY special. My uncles took me out to eat and my family bought me a cake and they had a party for me.
Maria: Winning this competition has brought my family closer together.
Cynthia: How did you feel when they called your name?
Kaylee: I didn’t know what was going on. I was talking to my friend when they announced my name. I thought she was going to win. I didn’t know what I had won.
My mom fell to her knees and she couldn’t stop crying.
Cynthia: What surprised you the most about San Antonio and the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza?
Kaylee: The thing that surprised me the most was seeing Mariachi Vargas for the first time in real life. I had seen their videos but never in person. I especially liked it when they sang the song La Malagueña. I liked the way Arturo held his notes for so long.
Maria: I was so very surprised that my daughter won. This was never expected being Kaylee’s first time participating in the Extravaganza.
Martha: A couple of things surprised me. I was happy and surprised to know that the girls would be singing on the Riverwalk. I always wanted to see this happen. The other thing was the amazing talent and caliber of musicianship present. There’s so much talent within our people and this made me so proud. I was thoroughly enjoying every moment of the event and I didn’t want it to end. There were just so many great musicians and vocalists at the event. We felt proud to be a part of it.
Cynthia: Do you play any instruments?
Kaylee: Yes. I’ve been playing the piano for a little over a year and I just started playing the guitar two months ago.
Cynthia: Do you belong to a mariachi group?
Kaylee: I want to.
Cynthia: Are there mariachi groups in Utah?
Martha: Not really. There’s a Charter school in town that has started a program that’s in its infant stages.
Cynthia: What is the Hispanic population in Salt Lake City, Utah?
Martha: About 20% of the population in Salt Lake City is Hispanic. There’s a Mexican Consulate and a Telemundo and Univision affiliate. There’s about 400,000 Latinos living and working in this area most which are of Mexican decent. There’s also lots of Peruvians.
Cynthia: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Kaylee: I have 3 siblings. One sister Juana Yvette (11) and two big brothers Kevin (14) and Eric (18). Juana Yvette plays the piano and Kevin plays basketball. Eric works.
Kaylee: Did you know that I have some songs on iTunes?
Cynthia: Tell me about this.
Martha: Manuel Garza wrote the arrangement for Granada and El Raton Vaquero. The arrangements were done in Eagle Pass and the voice was done in my recording studio in my home and sent to Eagle Pass for the mixing. She has two original songs that someone wrote for her and they’re on YouTube.
Cynthia: Did you know we have a Mariachi Extravaganza Summer Camp?
Martha: I read about it. Maybe we can plan on having Kaylee there.
Cynthia: Israel, what do you think about all this?
Israel: We think it’s great and I’m happy to see everything. I want to experience the event in person.
Cynthia: What’s your favorite class in school?
Cynthia: What’s your all time favorite song?
Cynthia: Who’s your all-time favorite artist?
Kaylee: Selena and Angela Aguilar
Cynthia: What is your dream? What do you wish to accomplish?
Kaylee: That I want to be a big star and help all the kids who don’t have food or shelter and live in the streets.
Cynthia: When is your birthday?
Kaylee: My birthday is on April 11.
Cynthia: What do you want for Christmas?
AirPods, Vans shoes, clothes and some stuff for my two dogs – a Chihuahua that doesn’t grow and a Border Collie that’s bigger than me when he stands up.
Kaylee is quite mature for her age. She and Victoria Acosta tie for the youngest to win Vocal Champs in the Extravaganza (Victoria won when she was only 8 years old in 2000). Kaylee had a tough competition on December 7 but it was no surprise to the early birds who saw her perform that morning when she was named Grand Champion Vocalist for the 25th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Congratulations to Kaylee and her family and friends. She is the princess for 2020 and will represent the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in performances throughout the United States. She is the recipient of a $2,500 performance grant donated by Gonzaba Medical Group which can aid her in the development of her art form and a $200 grant presented to her by Irma and Jesus Muñoz for winning first place in her category.