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3 generations of family members teach and play in mariachi camp

By Andrew Christiansen

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    TUCSON, Arizona (KGUN) — If you walked into Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School this past month, you would hear music coming from the halls and inside the classrooms.

Some students like JJ Valenzuela, 11, look forward to mariachi camp all year.

He’s been going to the camp for about 6 years and is about to be in the sixth grade. He sings and also plays five instruments including the guitar, vihuela, harp, trumpet, and guitarron.

“It kind of just depends on the song, but I like really like doing both,” he said.

At the camp, other students also learn how to play the instruments JJ does, but also play the violin, trumpets, and all the instruments needed to play mariachi songs.

JJ is just one of the over 260 kids who were in the camp this year.

One of Valenzuela’s instructors is his dad Jaime Valenzuela.

“The music helps me with the bonding and with my kids,” he said.

Jaime took over for his dad, Dr. Alfredo Valenzuela, who has murals painted of him all over the school’s cafeteria.

Alfredo started working at the school in the early 1980s before Jaime became a student there in 1985.

“So many lives have been impacted through music. That’s the thing that surprises most people…is to see how many kids that have gone through our program,” Jaime Valenzuela said.

JJ has been learning from his dad and his grandfather and they have all performed together.

“I like making like memories and like…experiencing what my dad experienced from his dad,” he said.

However, it’s not just Jaime who is an instructor at the school. His brothers and sisters and their kids also teach classes at the camp.

“To have them here means a lot to me and to my dad,” Jaime Valenzuela said.

They also perform together at parties, fundraisers, educational conferences, and other local events.

“Sharing the culture of mariachi music is how we do that together,” Jaime Valenzuela said.

So if you see them playing at a concert or teaching at schools, for JJ, Jaime, and their family, music isn’t just their passion; it’s also their legacy.

“The music is what keeps the…keeps our family together. It’s the glue of our family,” Jaime said.

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