Sometimes the ability to play is a gift you’re just born with.
For Johnny Muñoz of Azusa — he was born with the talent, and he was also born blind.
“Music has been in my blood, ever since I was a kid,” Muñoz said. “As a kid, I always wanted to do Mariachi. Always, but you see, growing up — they gave me the opportunities, but in reality, no one really wanted to teach me the guitar at that point."
Muñoz is a student at Cal Poly Pomona.
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“I come here as a psych major to be exact, not a music major. A lot of people trip out because of that,” Munoz said.
Now he's able to tap that natural gift by joining the school's Mariachi band.
And when you listen, don’t be surprised that this man who is blind learned to play the guitar, be surprised that he only started playing a year ago.
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And that’s only because he could never find someone to teach him.
“Because how are you going to teach him? They actually said that, like how am I gonna teach you? Hand over hand or what? No one really wanted to give that opportunity to do it,” Muñoz said.
“His commitment is really clear. He showed up and he’s like, I’ll take any extra minutes you have,” Jessie Vallejoo, an Ethnomusic Professor, Cal Poly Pomona.
Vallejo was the first person in Muñoz’s life to take on the challenge and to help him learn the guitar. She had to learn how to teach him.
“This has been my first time teaching somebody who’s blind, you know, an instrument in class,” Vallejo said. “So kind of like using your hands to demonstrate or letting somebody feel certain parts of your hands.As he progressed in playing guitar, you know he was fearless in asking questions.”
“I really pay attention of what’s around me or when they play the song for the first time, I’m like ok, what chord: C, D, F, what’s going on? So that’s when I usually ask people around me,” Muñoz said.
When he's not playing guitar -- Johnny Muñoz becomes DJ Bin Dope.
“When people see me they think it’s awesome to see me play the guitar, to see me DJ at parties. I feel like I’m a role model to everyone — not just the blind, but sighted people as well,” Muñoz said.
And how could he not be. Muñoz doesn't want anyone to judge his abilities based on his inability to see.
“Treated the same no matter what. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. If you want to be treated with respect, then show that respect,” Muñoz said.
“Johnny coming in and being fearless, I think, is such an important attitude and being positive about it,” Vallejo said.
Now Muñoz is just focused on the future.
“In five years, maybe audition for one of the big TV shows — American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent,” Muñoz said.
At his pace, he may be there sooner than he thinks.
“Do what you want. Go for what you want. If you have an opportunity, go for it,” Muñoz said. “Music changed my life in general, but the whole being in the Mariachi here at the school has changed my life a lot.”