Over its 25 year trajectory, the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza has given mariachi students the opportunity to learn from and perform for El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo – Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Every year we see hundreds of new faces come to San Antonio for our week-long mariachi music festival. We also get the pleasure to witness students who come back year after year and keep getting better and stronger as musicians.
Vivien Canales from Rio Grande City, Texas is one of these young talented mariachi students that has attended the Extravaganza multiple times over the years. In 2019, Vivien sang a beautiful interpretation of Pedro Galindo Galarza’s “El Herradero” during the National Vocal Competition.
Interview with Vivien Canales:
Leon: Vivien, it’s a pleasure speaking with you today. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you, where are you from and what mariachi do you play with?
Vivien: I’m currently 14-years-old but will be turning 15 pretty soon. I’m from Rio Grande City, Texas and I play with Mariachi Juvenil de America from Veterans Middle School.
Leon: Do you have any other hobbies besides mariachi?
Vivien: Yes I do. I’m part of the school’s track and softball team and I also practice competitive all star cheerleading.
Leon: When did you first get involved with Mariachi and why? What instrument do you play?
Vivien: It all started with my sister Velia. She is one year older than me and when she started middle school she joined Mariachi Juvenil de America. When I first watched her perform and saw how much fun she was having I knew I also wanted to join. If I’m being honest I didn’t really listen to mariachi before that. I also decided to play the violin because it looked like so much fun.
Leon: Are you and your sister the first in your family to be involved in music?
Vivien: Well, my older brother plays electric guitar and produces his own music, so you could say that my siblings and I are first generation musicians.
Leon: How does your family feel about you being in mariachi?
Vivien: They love it and have been really supportive since day one. They feel like mariachi provides a good environment for us to connect with other people and our culture.
Leon: What is it like to play in a school mariachi program?
Vivien: I love it. We have a lot of fun but we work very hard as well. We have the best directors. Mr. Marcos Zarate and Mr. Daniel Renteria work so hard to make sure we sound a look great. They have taught me everything I know so I have to give them credit for the success of the group.
Leon: What have you learned in mariachi that has helped you in other aspects of your life?
Vivien: I have learned to always be prepared and to not let my mistakes stop me. Just like in a performance you might mess up every once in a while, but you can’t stop. The show must go on.
Leon: Now tell us, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this quarantine?
Vivien: I’ve been working out a lot, swimming, singing, playing violin and I also found some time to learn to play the ukulele. Sometimes I’ll turn on the TV and watch Vampire Diaries and Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.
Leon: You and your group had the opportunity to travel and compete at the 25th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza last year. Tell us about your experience.
Vivien: I can honestly say it’s one of the best experiences of my life. There is nothing like spending a weekend with your friends without parents. It was my second time going back to San Antonio to compete and it was so much fun.
Leon: What is it like to perform in front of a large audience and at the same time be judged by members of the best mariachi in the world – Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan?
Vivien: It can be a little scary at first to perform in front of such a large crowd, but once your’e on stage you forget about it. Playing for Mariachi Vargas can make you a little nervous as well, but it’s such an honor nonetheless.
Leon: For anyone that is interested in competing, can you give us some tips?
Vivien: It is very important to breathe. Sometimes you might get a bit nervous and overwhelmed by the large crowd, so just concentrate and breathe. That should help you control your nerves a bit.
Leon: If I’m not mistaken, you were also part of the Mariachi Extravaganza Vocal Summer Camp, what can you tell us about your experience?
Vivien: The summer camp is so much fun. I was so bummed out that it had to be cancelled this year because of the pandemic. I learned so much last year. The instructors are super nice and have a lot of experience. Also, I can honestly say that I’ve made really good friends during my time at the summer camp.
Leon: What’s your favorite music genre?
Vivien: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of pop and country.
Leon: Who’s your favorite artist?
Vivien: The English singer, song-writer and actor Harry Styles.
Leon: If you could perform a duet with any artists, who would it be and why?
Vivien: Demi Lovato. She’s been through alot, and she puts a lot of meaning and emotion into her performances.
Leon: If you could play any instrument, which one would you pick and why?
Vivien: Probably the piano because of all the different genres I could play.
Leon: You’re still very young, but have you given any thought to what you want to do in life? Do you wish to pursue a career in music, or maybe a different field?
Vivien: I think as of right now I want to be a lawyer. If that doesn’t work out for whatever reason I have also thought about opening up a tumbling gym. As far as a music career, I like to think that would be a better path for my sister Velia, but who knows, things might change in the future.
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The Mariachimusic.com online newsletter is a monthly email blast that has now gone weekly in effort to provide the community with news, information and videos featuring great performances from numerous mariachi artists and previous participants of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Enjoy this content as you continue to keep your families safe and secure during this current Covid-19 outbreak. If you have stories you’d like to share about your experiences in mariachi music, and/or how you and your group are coping during this Covid-19 crisis, please feel free to email them to email@example.com. Selected stories will be posted on the mariachimusic.com website in the blog section and shared via the weekly email newsletters.
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Both Vivien and her sister Velia are real stars whose talent we get to enjoy thanks to the strong base of support they have from folks like Marcos Zarate, Daniel Renteria, the staff and faculty at Veteran’s Middle School, their parents and the entire Rio Grande City community. Your hard work contributes significantly to the caliber of vocalists who compete annually in the Extravaganza and this is why the MVE National Vocal Competition is known to showcase the greatest, youth-driven, mariachi vocal talent in the world. It’s also really fun to hear of all of the other activities these students are involved with outside of mariachi and the artists who influence them. Thanks for this enjoyable read Leon and Vivien!