Getting one chair to turn is a big deal. Getting two to turn? That’s something special.
And that’s exactly what Hollister’s own Joe Fata did on Telemundo’s “La Voz Kids,” where children blind audition for a panel of three well-known Spanish-language music artists in an attempt to turn a chair and join a team. The coveted spots are available on Team Natalia Jimenez, Team Daddy Yankee and Team Pedro Fernandez, with the winner receiving a recording contract and $50,000 to support their education.
Eleven-year-old Joe specializes in regional Mexican music and mariachi—and when hearing him belt out the tunes, you wouldn’t know he only started learning and speaking Spanish about four years ago.
“My mom and dad don’t really speak Spanish,” he said. “No one in my family does other than my grandma. My grandma has always wanted me to speak Spanish and she told my mom I should get some sort of Spanish education.”
That led Joe and his parents, Ann and Vince Fata, to the Hollister Dual Language Academy, where Joe has been a student since first grade.
“I saw a youth mariachi,” Joe said. “I saw them sing and I loved it.”
The group was Mariachi Juvenil Alma de Mexico, and Joe begged his parents to sign him up at MJ Alma de Mexico Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Gilroy.
“I started him in that and he picked up the violin—you have to pick an instrument, so he chose violin,” Ann said. “They teach music theory, dance, Folkorico and vocals. He just loved the singing part of it.”
While learning Spanish at HDLA, Joe continued to work on his Spanish language skills while singing and playing instruments at the music academy.
“The violin teacher doesn’t speak much English, so Joe’s immersed in learning the instrument in Spanish,” Ann said. “He picked up Spanish really quickly and he just has a knack for music.”
Once Joe learned the violin—with additional lessons from a Suzuki instructor in Gilroy—he got into the youth mariachi group, which performs at weddings, parties and more.
But now he’s headed for a bigger stage.
“Someone sent the director of the youth mariachi that I‘m in a notice saying there were auditions (for “La Voz Kids”),” Joe said. “I remember seeing the first season and there were a few kids from our area on there. I turned it on my grandma’s TV and she said, ‘Joe, you could really do that.’ That was when I first started singing mariachi. Then I saw the auditions and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can do that!’”
With the support of his family—“We tell him school always comes first, but when he’s doing well in school then I’m more than happy to help him,” Ann said—Joe auditioned online and was chosen for further auditions in Florida. He said that’s when he started to get really excited.
“At that time, wow, I was very happy and kind of in a cloud,” said Joe, who sang "El Triste" by José José. “I was nervous when I first got up on stage and then I started singing and I got a little bit more comfortable. Then when they turned around, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! They’re right in front of me!’”
Mom Ann watched from backstage and said she had jitters too, but was confident it would be a good experience regardless of the outcome.
“I was probably more nervous than him,” she said. “You’re hoping for the best for your kid, and having seen the show, the judges were real positive. So I thought that even if they didn’t turn around, they would be really positive.”
Those hopes for a positive outcome were surpassed when two coaches—Pedro Fernandez and Daddy Yankee—turned their chairs. The two fought for Joe to join their teams.
“I pretty much knew I wanted to go with Pedro from the start, if any of them turned around,” Joe said. “But Daddy Yankee, he tries to persuade you. Even though I love all kinds of music, I have a passion for regional Mexican music and I thought Pedro could help me out pretty much with everything.”
Now that Joe is on Team Pedro, he’s preparing for the upcoming battle rounds and leaving many in his family in awe of his talent.
“We all wonder where he comes from because (his brother and sister) are more athletic,” Ann said, acknowledging neither she nor her husband are musically inclined. “When he participated in the Gavilan College STAR program in San Juan Bautista, they did a musical and he got the lead part and had to sing by himself. I’d never really heard him do that. That’s when I said, “Wow, he can sing!’ He didn’t have any fear.”
The support of his family and his love of music will continue to guide him while he’s on “La Voz Kids”—and beyond.
“I never plan to stop singing,” Joe said. “It brings me joy and I feel good when I’m bringing an audience joy. It’s a warmness in my heart that makes me feel so good. That’s what I plan to keep on doing for a long time.”