Meet the dynamic duo, Victoria Vargas (she/her) (bottom, left) and Kimberly Marin-Rodriguez (she/her) (top, left), both eighth-graders at Hollenbeck Middle School. Together, with their guitars, they are weaving melodies and building lasting memories. Their shared love for mariachi music has not only created a harmonious friendship but has also shaped their middle school experience.

Kimberly’s musical journey began in the sixth grade when she was enrolled in the orchestra course and introduced to the violin. Captivated by the sounds of the mariachi music playing at school, she made the choice to take the mariachi course and switch to the guitar in seventh grade with the encouragement of Juan Lebron, the strings, mariachi, and digital music director at Hollenbeck. Similarly, Victoria found her way into music as a viola player. Her grandmother’s love for mariachi music, coupled with her own curiosity to learn a new instrument, led her to join as well.

They both share a deep appreciation for the role Lebron has played in their musical growth. “His patience and dedicated support when tackling challenging songs have made the learning process less difficult,” says Kimberly. Both students shared experiences that included moments of frustration that they often worked through together. Victoria cherishes the spirit of collaborative learning in their mariachi course, especially when learning new pieces. “The students support each other too,” she says. 

Reflecting on their growth, both students recall a nerve-wracking back-to-school night performance in seventh grade. Despite the initial embarrassment, their determination to improve kept them going. Now, they celebrate the progress they’ve made and the cheers they receive at concerts, a testament to their dedication and resilience.

One memorable experience for Kimberly was a visit to La Plaza de la Raza, which provides affordable arts education for communities on the east side of Los Angeles in four major disciplines: visual art, dance, music, and theatre. There, she had the opportunity to practice alongside professionals and fellow students, culminating in a vibrant performance to display what they learned that day. 

Victoria’s standout moment revolves around collaborating with the mariachi group at Roosevelt High School. Playing alongside more experienced students not only inspires her but also serves as motivation to improve her skills and opens the doors to peer guidance. Beyond being a class, mariachi music has transformed into a community for both Kimberly and Victoria. They aspire to join Roosevelt’s mariachi as freshmen next year and are eager to reconnect with the older students who played a pivotal role in their musical development when they were students at Hollenbeck.

Looking ahead, Kimberly and Victoria not only envision a future in mariachi music but also contemplate the possibility of their own gigs as they gain more experience. Their love for music has not just made middle school more enjoyable but has also set the stage for future adventures, forming a collection of memories that will stay with them for years.