IDEA Pharr Mariachi Leon

Discovering Diversity in Latinx Culture with IDEA Pharr’s Mariachi Leon

 This Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting IDEA Pharr’s Mariachi Leon and how they have brought the IDEA community together with their performances. The IDEA Pharr campus in the Rio Grande Valley was the first to launch a Mariachi program and ensembles are following suit and appearing across the district. Directed by Cecilia Chavez Padron, she leads Mariachi Leon with the experience and dedication that began with her own love of Mariachi. Read more about Ms. Padron and hear from our scholars on how Mariachi has motivated them to connect to their culture and heritage.  


Cecilia Chavez Padron, Director of IDEA Pharr’s Mariachi Leon  

What is the name of your Mariachi group? IDEA Pharr Mariachi Leon  

How long have you been playing Mariachi? I have been playing violin since I was 10 years old and playing Mariachi for 12 years.  

Why is it important to share the style of Mariachi music with our students and the larger IDEA community? Mariachi has a joy factor that not many other genres have. People are instantly captured by the loud sound of the trumpet and the soft high pitches of the violin. There is just something about Mariachi that connects people and brings them together. Mariachi music is a beautiful tradition that reconnects us to our roots and gives us a sense of pride in our culture. We are proud to have been the first IDEA school in the Rio Grande Valley to start a Mariachi program and we have been able to continue this thanks to the support of our entire community. It is important to share the style of Mariachi music with the upcoming generations so that our music, the most beautiful in the world, will continue to live on.  

What is your favorite part about teaching Mariachi? Teaching students how to tell a story and interpret their emotions through singing is one of my favorite things. I also love teaching students to work as a group and to take pride in their talent and abilities. Learning to play an instrument can be life changing and I believe learning Mariachi has changed their life for the better.  

What kind of accolades or awards have the IDEA Mariachi Leon received? We have earned 2nd place at the UTRGV FESTIBA Mariachi Competition 2018 and 3rd place at the Border Fest Mariachi Competition. Playing at FESTIBA meant a lot to us because it was the first time we had performed on a big stage. Students also took masterclasses and got to meet other students from which they could learn. A recent notable performance was IDEA College Signing Day 2022 in which we performed for our biggest crowd yet. The Bert Ogden Arena was filled with Mexican gritos and singing.

Mariachi Leon performing at College Signing Day 2022


The students of IDEA Pharr’s Mariachi Leon share their experiences of performing as an ensemble, the importance of sharing Mariachi music, and how celebrating their culture has brought their school community together. Keep reading to learn what Mariachi has taught them:  

Dayra Campos, 12th grade – violin  

 Q: What is the most memorable moment from being in Mariachi Leon?  

A: The moment I cherish most was the last pep rally before we entered the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of the dance team, we were able to lift our school’s spirits so much that they began to dance along to our music. As cliché as it may sound, I believe there was a sort of magic to that moment.


Esmeralda Martinez, 12th grade – violin

Q: What do you want other students to know about Mariachi?

A: I want students to know that Mariachi is a beautiful culture and can have a soulful impact on music lovers.



Kathleen Limones, 10th Grade – vihuela/guitar/accordion  

Q: What is your favorite part about playing mariachi?

A: My favorite part about playing in a mariachi group is the gift of observing people’s emotions through their reactions. Bringing a smile to their face or a teardrop. Having the opportunity to create happiness through music is my favorite thing.


Eder Medina, 8th Grade – guitarron 

Q: What do you want other students to know about Mariachi?

A: I want other people to know that mariachi isn’t something just related to Hispanic culture, but that it’s special for many people and displays an element behind mariachi and Mexican culture. 




Alessandra Gonzalez, 9th Grade – violin  

Q: What have you learned about your culture through playing Mariachi?

A: I’ve learned that in Mexican culture, Mariachi music is really important to people because it represents their pride, passion, love, and history. It brings people together to create happy memories.  




Sebastian Vargas, 12th grade – guitar  

Q: What has been the most memorable moment of playing in Mariachi Leon?

A: I can’t choose a single moment because they are all memorable, but if I had to, the first time playing was the most memorable because that’s when I joined this mariachi family.  



Keyla Limones, 12th grade – guitarron  

 Q: What do you want other students to know about Mariachi?

A: I want other students to know that mariachi is as important as pop culture, it represents us, where it is our families come from, and who we are as individuals.  



Lynda Ledezma, 11th grade – guitar 

Q: What do you want other students to know about Mariachi?

A: What I want other students to know about Mariachi is that it’s worth it when you realize that you’re learning music that your grandparents and family members once listened to. Whenever I got to play a song that I found difficult and told my mom or dad, they would laugh and whenever I played the song, they were happy because I went from struggling to play it to performing it for them.   


Miguel Tolentino, 12th grade – trumpet 

Q: What have you learned about your culture through playing Mariachi?

A: I have learned how important it is to keep my culture alive.





Keep up with IDEA Pharr and the Mariachi Leon on their Campus Facebook page. If you’re interested in launching Mariachi at your campus contact IDEA’s Managing Director of Out of School and College Partnerships Kennedy Stonehawk at


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