Music took Professor Jessie Vallejo from a childhood in Liverpool, N.Y. to Spain, to a village in Ecuador to stages at Mariachi festivals in Cuba, and eventually to Cal Poly Pomona where she is now an assistant professor of Ethnomusicology, the study of music in its cultural context. Growing up, Vallejo felt drawn to music: “I was the kid who every time I went to a friend’s house, if they had a piano, I would sit and noodle around on it.” Vallejo chose to master the violin for one very practical reason. “I picked it for its size, and I don’t regret that decision,” she says with a laugh. “I really enjoy being able to go almost anywhere with it. With a violin, you can combine it with a lot of different instruments.” She uses that violin in Mariachi bands playing with artists like Nancy Sanchez and in performing Andean, Chinese and bluegrass music. She has studied Mariachi in Cuba, Spain, and Ecuador as well as Mexico.