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Photo: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC Vietnamese American Kurt To plays violin in the mariachi band Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano.
Photo: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC Vietnamese American Kurt To plays violin in the mariachi band Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano.

Meet This Vietnamese American Mariachi Violinist

Kurt To began playing violin at the young age of 5 years old. Growing up in San Juan Capistrano with a family of musicians, To says that his family is “not your traditional Vietnamese family.” Who knew that classically trained Kurt would grow to find a love for mariachi music?

In high school, he solidified his love for the mariachi lifestyle. At first, it was just a way to connect with friends in school, and then it grew into his new musical passion. “I felt like if I didn’t have mariachi, I probably would have quit my instrument because I was slowly getting older,” To said.

The members of Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano
The members of Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano

Kurt, who is now 22 years old, is part of a band called Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano, based in the OC. At first, To was nervous about being in a mariachi band and competing in the Battle of the Mariachis. He did not want to be misunderstood for appropriating the culture, but soon realized that music really does bring different worlds together.

“What’s crazy was when I got (to Mission San Juan Capistrano), I was like, ‘I’m not the only non-Hispanic, non-Latino person here,’” To said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute. This is more inclusive than I thought.’”

Kurt To, right, with his Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano bandmates after winning the first place trophy for best mariachi band in the open category at the 2017 Battle of the Mariachis competition in San Juan Capistrano.
Kurt To, right, with his Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano bandmates after winning the first place trophy for best mariachi band in the open category at the 2017 Battle of the Mariachis competition in San Juan Capistrano.

To went on to win the 2016 and 2017 battles with Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano. He officially joined the band in 2019 and has been performing with them ever since. His bandmates say his energy is contagious and his positive presence is a strong asset to the band. His friend and bandmate, Daniel Muñiz said, “Our other members were just really excited to have him so I guess it’s just another testament to how Kurt really does bring happiness to just any room.”

Check out Kurt To performing with his band Mariachi Nuevo Capistrano:

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