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Grand Prairie Mariachis Win National Competition with Hard Work, Dedication

Being a member of a high school band can be a life-changing experience under the strict direction of Marta Ocampo.

Ocampo is in her fourth year leading the Mariachi Sol Azteca at the Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy.

"I'm tough, I expect them to be good," Ocampo said. "I want them to have doors opening, opportunities open, and if you're mediocre that doesn't happen. And, so, yeah – I'm tough," she said, with laughter.

Joshua Riddick has been a mariachi since the sixth grade.

"Do you speak Spanish?" NBC 5's Kristin Dickerson asked Joshua.

"No, ma'am," he responded with a smile.

"But you sing it really well," she said.

Joshua answered with a laugh, "yes ma'am."

Competing at the high school level, Joshua is one of few African American mariachis.

"Yeah, people tell me, too, just in case I don't notice it or they think I don't notice it," Joshua said.

"We cannot believe that this is our life," said Joshua's mom, Shundria Riddick.

She said her one-time football family has transformed into a house of music.

"I thought mariachi was just at the restaurants. I just thought you go and they played mariachi, I had no idea. We love it, but we cannot believe that we actually recognize [mariachi] songs," Shundria Riddick said.

Joshua practices all the time. Even during their family dinner he still rehearses lyrics.

"I think that's the thing that I admire about him the most: he found something that he loved and he put 100-percent into it," his mother said.

"Really proud of him," said Joshua's dad. "He's a great kid, great kid, I mean not just because he's musically talented— he’s just a great kid."

Joshua is just one example of the work ethic behind each member of Mariachi Sol Azteca, and together they keep improving.

"The first year we came in ninth in the state of Texas," said Ocampo.

The second year, they came in sixth at state, then came in third the following year.

"So, they see themselves getting better by threes, so what does that mean?" asked Ocampo. "Hopefully first this year."

This summer, at Jose Hernandez' Mariachi Nationals in Los Angeles, the Grand Prairie mariachis took home a national championship.

"Well, I was telling my friends we are the best mariachi in the free world," Joshua joked. "But, no, it took a lot of practicing, a lot of hard work, a lot of long practices, so we felt like we earned it."

For Ocampo, her satisfaction doesn't come from awards; rather, it's from seeing and hearing her kids get better.

"They make me proud every day, every day," said Ocampo.

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