On a musical path

BVH junior plays vihuela for Mariachi Garibaldi

Mariachi Garibaldi performing at the San Diego County Fair 2019. Pablo Shimizu has been participating with Mariachi Garibaldi for 4.5 years

Provided by Pablo Shimizu

Mariachi Garibaldi performing at the San Diego County Fair 2019. Pablo Shimizu has been participating with Mariachi Garibaldi for 4.5 years

Nicole MacGaffey, News Editor

As he strums his fingers against the nylon strings of his vihuela, he feels the vibrations of the music throughout his body. Sweat dripping from his face, mind honed in on the music, the crowd cheering in the background. This is the experience of mariachi player Pablo Shimizu.  

Shimizu is a junior at Bonita Vista High (BVH) and is part of Southwestern College’s (SWC) globe trotting mariachi group, Mariachi Garibaldi. Shimizu is a vihuela player for the group and has been a part of SWC’s mariachi program for four and half years. This is his first year in the advanced level of the mariachi program.  

“It’s cool to be playing with them, but it’s even nicer to be learning from them. They have so much knowledge on the genre of music and how to play [and use] certain [songs and techniques]. It’s really nice to be hearing the old school way of playing it. It feels good to be playing with them,” Shimizu said.  

Shimizu first got involved in mariachi in seventh grade at Bonita Vista Middle. He recalls he “fell in love with it” halfway through his seventh grade year. Shimizu was then introduced to the Mariachi Garibaldi group by his mentor, Rafa Hernandez.  

Mariachi Garibaldi is a performing group at SWC. The group is named after a square in Mexico City, Plaza Garibaldi, where mariachis went to play and showcase their music. Students in this group already have many songs memorized, so they perform at various events in the community. These events have included birthdays, weddings and concerts. They have also played with the San Diego Symphony and have done benefits for the Rotary Club and Scripps Hospital.

Pablo Shimizu (middle) playing alongside Mariachi Garibaldi during the San Diego County Fair. Shimizu is the vihuela player for the group. (Provided by Pablo Shimizu)

“Some people are going to want to get up and dance and then other people are going to start crying. And then some song reminds a person of a breakup, so then they start yelling, so it’s kind of different,” Shimizu said. “It’s pretty nice being able to bring that out of people.” 

According to the Director of Mariachi Activities and Professor of Music at SWC Dr. Jeff Nevin, the response from the community to the group’s music has been overwhelmingly positive. They enjoy seeing young people play the music and pour their heart into it.  

“People are there because they love mariachi. It doesn’t matter if [you] speak Spanish, English, [or] your age [or] your color it’s just because of the music. And you just get along,” SWC student and member of Mariachi Garibaldi Ricardo Dollero said.  

Since SWC is a community college, Mariachi Garibaldi does not only consist of college students. The group has members with a wide variety of ages, almost spanning an 80 year range.

“You get to have these relationships with older people, and you learn from them, and they learn from you. And you also have people that are there because they love the music,” Dollero said.  

The collaborative and respectful atmosphere of the class allows for close friendships amongst younger and older generations. Younger players receive mentorship from older players and the group learns from each other.  

“I love it, if you couldn’t tell. It’s amazing,” Shimizu said. “It’s really fun. Not just the playing, but [being able to] hangout. The playing is awesome too, but it’s more than just music. Obviously, as you get more into it, it’s more serious, but it’s fun, being with everyone and doing what you love.”