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US Pioneers

Rebecca Gonzales

Ms. Gonzales was classically trained on the violin starting at age ten. She began her mariachi training in 1972 at San Jose City College under the instruction of Mark Fogelquist. That year she also joined Mariachi Los Abajeños de Isidro Rivera with whom she also trained on the violin and began to learn how to sing Mexican songs. The first few months she performed for free, except for an occasional tip from Mr. Rivera. Soon after she became a full time musician with Mr. Rivera’s ensemble and was paid as a member of the group. In 1975 she entered Cal State San Jose as a music major, later moving to Santa Monica where she joined Mariachi Uclatlan at the invitation of Mr. Fogelquist. In 1976 she was invited by Nati Cano to join his group, Mariachi Los Camperos. Ms. Gonzales was the first female member of the group and the first female to perform with a high-profile all male mariachi show in the United States. She performed with Los Camperos for eight years at La Fonda restaurant in Los Angeles. From 1984 to 1985, she performed with Mariachi Cobre at the Walt Disney Epcot Center. She returned to Southern California as a free lance Mariachi violinist. She joined Mariachi Los Gavilanes de Juan Manuel Cortez and sang as a soloist at the 1995 and 1999 Mariachi USA festivals at the Hollywood Bowl, and in 1997 at the Greek Theatre Mariachi Summer Concert in Los Angeles. She continues to perform mariachi music as a freelance musician and teaches violin technique in Palos Verdes, California.

Barbara Perez-Diaz


Coming soon!

Kate Woods​​

Kate Woods started playing violin when she was 10 years old. In 1974, when she was 15, her family moved to downtown San Jose. Soon thereafter, she met two Anglo residents of the area, Jon Clark (guitarrón) and John Rialson (trumpet), who approached her to join in their endeavors to study Mariachi music. She was recruited into the half-Anglo/half-Mexican mariachi called Mariachi Atzlán. Kate performed with the SJSU Symphony, but she was increasingly becoming “hooked” into the fascinating world of Mexican folkloric music. On vacation in 1977 to Puerto Vallarta, Woods discovered a 12-piece first-rate mariachi called Los Pepitas. What intrigued her were the group’s faithful renditions of the arrangements of Mariachi Nuevo Tecatitlán of Guadalajara. She introduced herself, showed them her Atzlán business card from San José and convinced the skeptical musicians to give her a try-out. She got the job and performed with the group for the rest of the summer. The experience and skills the group imparted to her were invaluable. Back in San José she worked with Mariachi Atzlán (later called Nuevo Atzlán) and became the lead musician for all regional dance genres performed by the legendary Los Lupeños Ballet Folklórico. Woods was responsible for leading the musical sections of Norteño (polka), Huasteca, Sinaloa, Veracruzano, Jalisco, and a special historic section called “Los Moros.” From 1977 through 1979, she toured with Mariachi Atzlán and Los Lupeños to the exhilarating Carnaval (Mardi Gras) in Veracruz, Mexico, to an awestruck audience upon seeing an Anglo-American mariachi female violinist for the first time. For the next 11 years, Kate went on to perform with many different mariachi groups throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area, including Mariachi Azteca, Mariachi Los Caltecas and Mariachi Los Monarcos. She became known as the first Anglo female mariachi to earn a steady living by playing six days a week, not just at various “plantas” (regular restaurant and supper club gigs), “chambas” (contracted special events), but also, she was particularly renown for weathering the weekday and weekend “al talón” circuit in many popular Mexican nightclubs. In October of 1991, Kate’s mariachi career came to an abrupt end due to a near-fatal accident that rendered her left arm useless. She rebounded within a few years and ventured on a new journey, falling back on her college studies as a writer. She became the senior staff writer/reporter as well as a political satire columnist at the Pinnacle newspaper based in Hollister, Calif. She has won seven awards from the California Newspaper Publishing Association – the “Academy Awards” of the journalism world -- in the categories of Public Service, Environmental Reporting, Investigative Reporting, and Best Commentary. Kate is currently living in New Idria, CA.

Laura Garciacano Sobrino

​​Born and raised in Watsonville, CA, where Laura studied classical music since she was 8, she spoke no Spanish during her childhood. She was a charter member of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony and received the music award upon graduation from Aptos High School. Laura had always dreamed about becoming a music teacher. She was accepted into the Music department at UC Santa Cruz in 1972. College opened her eyes to many new things, including the strong MeCha and Chicano movements prominent on campus. The majority of Latino students spoke Spanish. By the end of her first year, she decided to go live in Mexico City with some of her father’s relatives. She was exposed to Mexican culture and the Spanish language, making such an impact in her life that she became impassioned with her Mexican roots. Her trailblazing role as a female mariachi musician began in 1975 when she entered into an ethnomusicology program and began performing with a local group, Mariachi Santa Cruz. For her B.A., Laura chose to write her thesis on the Mariachi Violin Style, which took her to Los Angeles to work with different mariachi groups. Laura first performed with Mariachi Uclatlán (1978; Mark Fogelquist, director), and Mariachi Nuevo Uclatlán (1979; Hector Aguiniga, director). Soon, she was invited to perform with two virtuoso all-male mariachi groups, the Mariachi Los Galleros (1979; Pedro Rey, director), and Mariachi Sol de Mexico (1986; Jose Hernandez, director), becoming the first female to work with those groups, respectively. Ms. Sobrino was the original musical for the all-female mariachi show group Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles (1994; Jose Hernandez, director). In 1999, Laura became the musical director and performing violinist with the Mariachi Mujer 2000 de Marisa Orduño. Her passion for mariachi performance has taken Laura to both national and international venues, including the Hollywood Bowl with Mariachi USA®; the Teatro Degollado (Guadalajara, MX); Miami Calle Ocho; the Santa Fe Opera House. Laura’s most memorable performance in her career was playing at the Bird’s Nest Stadium Opening Ceremonies in Beijing for the Olympics in 2008. In 2012, Laura became the first women to conduct the Mariachi Symphony at the Mariachi USA® Hollywood Bowl concert; she has been invited to conduct once again for the 2014 25th anniversary of the show. In addition to mariachi music performance, Laura has devoted many years to mariachi education. Laura was identified as an NEA Master Teacher by the state of Kansas, and has taught at the majority of the national mariachi workshops, including Tucson, Las Cruces, San Jose, Denver, Fresno, Albuquerque and Kansas City. She has published with Mel Bay Publishing, Inc., Southern Music Co, and her own Mariachi Publishing Company (1995). Her special interest in documenting the previously unrecognized history of women in mariachi music began around 1995. In 2007, in collaboration with Nancy Muñoz, documentation of this “silent history” was shared online on Laura was one of the three Latina musician honorees hand-selected by First Lady Maria Shriver for the "Latinas: The Spirit of California" exhibit at the CA Museum for History, Women & The Arts (‘05). Laura was the artist honoree for the 2011 "ACColades: A Salute to Women Who Inspire Us" (June 2011). For her many years of dedication to the mariachi world, Laura Sobrino was inducted into the TIMC Mariachi Hall of Fame (2004). Currently, she is a music lecturer at UC Riverside (2006- ) and musical director for Mariachi Mujer 2000 (1999- ). Laura also is the US representative for top dynamic Mexican performers, including the preeminent Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán (Guadalajara) and Juan Mendoza, “El Tariácuri”. In 2013, she retired from performing due to health issues.

Come back soon for more information!

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