When at 12 years old, Juan Ignacio Zepeda left his native Guadalajara in Mexico and emigrated to Los Angeles along with his parents and four sisters, he brought his love for mariachi and music.

But it was from that he benefited from the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that in 2016 opened the Mariachi Academy for Rain and Fire children in Pacoima north of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles to teach them the different musical instruments.

The academy gave rise to the creation of the Mariachi of children LLuvia y Fuego that already makes presentations.

Juan Ignacio Zepeda, creator of Mariachi for children Rain and Fire from Pacoima, California. (photo provided).

“I grew up in San Fernando, playing the guitar, the guitar, the vihuela and singing with a microphone in my hand,” says Juan Ignacio, 33 years old.

I didn't finish school because of the high cost of tuition fees, but music recording has been learned by myself.

“My dad was my influence. He put me to sing since I was five or six years old. He also likes to play and sing; and then in Mexico I started to escape with a neighbor who taught me different kinds of instruments, ”he says.

But it was in 2006 when he began to realize his illusion of having a recording studio that would work as a launching pad for an artist.

“The idea was to help new artists record, mix music and produce. I wanted to have a place to rehearse. because many times you can't do it from home because the neighbors get upset, ”he says.

Juan Ignacio Zepeda started singing with Mariachi since childhood. (photo provided)

But setting up the studio has required a great investment. "I've spent a lot, and I'm still in debt," he says.

Ten years later, in 2016, he rented a place in Pacoima to establish his study and open the Mariachi Academy for children and young people.

“I wanted to give you something. Our goal is for these children to obtain musical skills that will open the doors in the future to be part of a mariachi if they want; and have a unique experience whether they dedicate themselves to music professionally or not", He says.

Currently, Juan Ignacio says that more than 80 children attend the Academy to take classes to learn to play the instruments that make up the Mariachi.

“We have several groups for mariachi presentations. Generally the most applied children are selected for the touches, but also those who behave better and are respectful, ”he explains.

“We charge for the presentations, and those who pay us share it among all; or we use it to pay the rent of the premises ”, he mentions.

Juan Ignacio Zepeda is passionate about mariachi music. (Photo provided)

The Mariachi of Rain and Fire children is made up of children between 7 and 15 years old. "Although we have five-year-old students who really want to," he says.

Classes are taught by several teachers from 4 in the afternoon, and during the weekends, from 10 in the morning.

“We have just launched the Rain and Fire application so that people can come to hire us, sign up for classes, rent the recording studio, record them; or do costume shopping and mariachi musical equipment, ”he explains.

Mariachi Academy for Children Rain and Fire is full of Latino children whose parents take them almost every afternoon after school to take classes.

“They don't have to know how to play any instrument to belong to this academy. Here we teach them, ”says Juan Ignacio.

He says he would like more children to enroll in the academy.

“We have much more girls. We want children, ”he says.

And ask parents to give their children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument.

"It is a transformative experience in the lives of children. They start self-conscious. Some arrive sad, but the music makes them happy, they play, they dance and it lifts their spirits ”comments.

“My dream is that children achieve the satisfaction of having learned a musical instrument; and they can keep that when they are adults, ”he says.

Juan Ignacio acknowledges that he has struggled financially to sustain his recording studio and academy, but against the odds he has gradually raised his dream.

“I call on companies that can help us to become our sponsors or want to collaborate,” he emphasizes.


This young musician makes a living on weekends playing and singing with different mariachis who call him. "I've played in about 40 states across the country," he says.

And he says he feels very satisfied with his recording studio, his academy and the children's mariachi. “I have always helped others achieve their project. Now studying and academia is something of mine that I share with the children. And although I have suffered a lot in financial terms, it has given me a moral wealth above any other satisfaction, he says.

"This project allows me to own my destiny and my life," he says.

By January 2020, he plans to release the first Mariachi record with the children of the academy. “I am recording it. Hopefully we can have many sponsors, ”he says.

When Juan Ignacio thinks about the possibility of the DACA ending, he cannot help acknowledging that he is worried. “A little bit especially for children because I feel like an uncle and I don't want to separate from them. The truth is that wherever I go in the world, I'm going to want to sing, I'm going to sing, teach and do a study, ”he says.

While admitting that the issue is frustrating. "The fact of not being able to travel outside the country with the children and make the Mariachi known makes me angry, but I know that one day we will get it," he says.

Children who belong to Mariachi Lluvia y Fuego learn to express themselves in front of people without fear. (Photo provided)

The impact on children

For three years, Hermila Alvarez takes her daughters to the Maria Ignacio Academy of Juan Ignacio Zepeda. Pearl of 14 years plays the guitar, the guitarrón and the vihuela; his twin daughters Vanessa, the violin and guitar; and Valeria the guitar and the trumpet.

How has the music helped you?

"I have noticed them more confident. They write songs and are very good at expressing what they feel”Says Hermila.

“Increasingly they love Mexican music, its roots and traditions. I feel that everything they do, they put the soul and heart. They love classes. Every day they come, ”says this mother.

Two years ago, Cristina Flores took her 11-year-old son Isaías Flores to the Mariachi Academy. The boy has learned to play guitar, guitarrón and vihuela; and sings. “It has helped him even to learn Spanish, and to express himself in public without fear. Teachers have noticed it at school, ”says Cristina.

Viridiana López says that her children David and Eddie Islas, 12 and 9, play the violin and trumpet. “I have seen them more confident; they know how to express with people; And they are not so shy anymore. The music has helped them too much, ”he says.


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