Son Jarocho in Ventura County

When he moved from Mexico to southern California in 1997, Jorge Mijangos never thought he would be spending his days teaching music to children. Now, however, he realizes that there are few things he would rather be doing.

Mijangos teaches Son Jarocho music to Harmony Project students at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura, California, and he also teaches private lessons to children and adults twice a week.

Mijangos fell in love with Son Jarocho when he was a young man in Mexico, and he realized that he wanted to be a musician. The realization led Mijagos to move to the Veracruz area of Mexico, the home of Son Jarocho, and begin studying under an accomplished luthier. Without any commercial makers of Son Jarocho instruments, it is the responsibility of the musician to know how to build the various instruments used to create the music.

Years later, Mijangos himself has become an accomplished luthier and maintains a tidy wood-shop in his backyard. In his shop Mijangos makes Jaranas, small eight-stringed guitars, as well as other instruments used in the Son Jarocho genre.

The Jaranas can take weeks to complete, and are fashioned out of a single piece of Mexican Mahogany. All of Mijangos’ instruments are beautiful to the eye, but his primary concern is ensuring their sound is just as pleasing. He says that the Jaranas in particular have a tendency to play very “bright” notes due to their small size, which means he spends days custom tuning each guitar to the proper tone.

Many of Mijangos’ Jaranas are used by the children of the Harmony Project, an organization that teaches music to impoverished children. He sees the organization as a great way to invest into a community that is often ravaged by gang violence and drug abuse. Mijangos hopes to continue teaching music and creating Son Jarocho instruments for the future.