LBC mariachi player wins state talent competition; heads to national contest this fall!

You might think mariachi music and agriculture have nothing in common— unless you’re Adrian Soto. High school student, mariachi band member, and likely future leader in American farming, Adrian, it turns out, and the joys that drive him are what bring the two fields together. Where they meet is on a trajectory of persistence and hard work that has him heading to the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) national talent competition this November.

Adrian, who is 16 years old and in 11th grade at Santa Rosa High School, has been growing up surrounded by the sounds of mariachi. Specifically, the music of his family’s band, Sonoma’s own Mariachi Barragan, LBC’s after-school mariachi program since he was age 8, and LBC’s advanced Mariachi Ensemble, Mariachi Cantares de mi Tierra. He plays the vilheula, an instrument shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute, for both bands. Not coincidentally, his brother José Soto started Mariachi Barragan and directs the LBC program. He used to bring Adrian along with him to LBC’s summer mariachi camps.

In his spare time, Adrian also participates as a member of the Santa Rosa High School chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA), a national youth organization that prepares members for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture. His family owns a successful landscaping company and introduced him to gardening and farm animals where they lived in West County. They recently moved to Santa Rosa, where Adrian raises goats.

FFA gave Adrian the opportunity to bring both of his interests together with the FFA’s Got Talent competition, held each year at its National Convention in Indianapolis. The National FFA Convention Talent Competition is a highly competitive event, comprised of preliminary, semifinal, and final rounds. The finalist receives a $250 cash prize plus recognition as the “Best of the Best” among peers, as well as possible networking, scholarship, and performance opportunities. For Adrian, the competition is even more intense because California is one of the states that requires students to first participate in the State FFA Talent Competition, held during the State Leadership Conference.

“I’ve performed with the LBC Mariachi Ensemble throughout my home community,” said Adrian. It has given me a lot of confidence to express myself on a bigger scale.”

Being industrious, talented, and passionate about mariachi, Adrian submitted a video of his mariachi performance. Among the many submissions, he was one of only 14 students invited to compete at the state conference, which was held at the Toyota Arena in Ontario, in southern California, this past March. Only two of those students make it to the final round, and Adrian was one of them! On March 18, Adrian and fellow-finalist, Zena Scott of Brentwood-Liberty, showcased their skills for 7,000 California FFA members, students, advisors, and guests. Members voted, and Adrian was announced the winner at the closing session the following day! Now it’s on to the national convention in November, and all of LBC is cheering for him.

“I had no idea I would win, especially with all the other amazing performances,” Adrian said. “I have no idea what to expect in Indianapolis either, but I will do my best.”

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