SAN ANTONIO — Taytum Rangel remembers putting on tiny concerts for her parents in Seguin. But her mother Brandy doesn't recall her daughter's blossoming talent sticking out until a performance in junior high.
"We were like, where did that come from?" Rangel said.
Now, the 16-year-old is a finalist in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in December. It's an achievement that escaped the Seguin High School junior her ninth and tenth-grade years.
"I remember when I started, I hated it," she said. "I was like, 'I don't want to do this anymore. Take me out.'"
Taytum said she struggled with getting her violin to play perfectly – blaming on the make and model. After taking it to a music store where a man played the instrument beautifully, her buy-in grew.
"I think she can outplay me on some things," Rafael Alarcorn Jr. said. "But I won't tell her that."
Alarcorn is the Seguin ISD Mariachi Director. He's worked with Taytum and her blossoming talent. He's proud to see her represent the district.
"I think everything that she's earned this year, she's worked very hard for," he said.
Her mother, who works for the Seguin Independent School District, said her daughter's desire to pursue mariachi came from her father.
According to Taytum, her father and his siblings sang together. The family tradition became her duty.
Her big solo break came in the seventh grade. The reception became reinforcing.
"When you're up there, you're just filled with – I don't know, I guess, like love," she said. "I just love it. I love performing. I love everything about it."
Taytum is also a member of the Seguin Star Stepper Dance Team. She was also a part of the Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin.
Her mother's recollection of Taytum's singing changed.
"She sings in the shower. She sings in the kitchen," Rangel said. "She sings in the living room. She sings in the car. She sings outside."
But the songbird's tune of faith got tested before making Mariachi Vargas. Going into this year's submission, her mother helped stir up her confidence.
"She would say if I make it," Rangel said. "And I said no. Change those words to when you make it."
The teen believes her word change altered her trajectory.
"When you believe what you say," she said. "I think that's what really gets it."
Taytum will compete against mariachi artists from across the country at the Lila Cockrell Theater in San Antonio in early December.
"You see your little babies grow, and now they're competitive – a force to be reckoned with," Alarcorn said.