Carlos Holguin said he feels gratitude for his mother, but he doesn’t want to just talk about it, he wants to buy her a home.
“She raised us on her own,” said Holguin, a UNLV jazz studies major. “It’s the least I can do. She’s struggling, and I want to help her.”
His mother moved the family to the valley from Los Angeles when Holguin was 9 because she wanted a better place to raise her children. She worked at one of the casinos, but there were struggles.
“Money was always sparse,” Holguin said. “One week, we wouldn’t have electricity, one week we wouldn’t have water, one week we wouldn’t have either, but my mom had this funny way of smiling and laughing even when times were tough.”
He said that’s what inspired him to keep going and excel in his studies. When he was a junior, he transferred from Canyon Springs High School to the College of Southern Nevada as part of a program that allows students to attend high school at the college and also take 12 credits of college classes per semester. When he finished high school, he enrolled in the college. He initially majored in psychology, but his interest in music led him down a different path.
“I auditioned for a music scholarship all willy-nilly and got it,” Holguin said. “When I was about to finish my music degree, I realized I was only two credits away from my psychology degree, too, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ Then I discovered that I had enough credits to get a third degree, so I did get a third degree, with no emphasis.”
When he graduated from CSN, he thought it might be interesting to deliver his school’s commencement speech. CSN chooses a commencement speaker from its students, who compete for the honor and deliver their prospective speeches before a committee.
“I’d never given a speech before, but I got it,” Holguin said. “That made me realize that a little bit of hard work can go a long way.”
It’s that same attitude that led him to believe that he might be able to parlay his musical talent into a home for his mother.
“I wrote a song last year called ‘These Arms’ that just sort of came out,” he said. “I showed it to my buddies, and they really liked it, and I thought, ‘What if I record it and use the sales to help my mom out?’ So that’s what I did.”
The song, along with two others Holguin created, is available at several music sites, including iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.
“There’s a bunch of songs called ‘These Arms,’ so it’s easier to find it if you just look for my name,” he said. “There’s only one Carlos Holguin on those sites.”
A scholarship covers Holguin’s school expenses while he is studying at UNLV, but his other expenses are covered by his work as a freelance musician at corporate and other events. He has played in several lounges in the valley, including the Italian American Club and the Lift Bar at Aria. He also performs concerts with several UNLV jazz groups, on top of his full-time class schedule. He isn’t afraid to work hard and often, a trait he learned from his mother.
“She taught me how to work hard, and I told her I’m going to take care of her, and I mean it,” Holguin said. “She says, ‘That’s so sweet. I have the best son,’ but I don’t think she believes I’m going to do it, but I’m dead serious.”
Nathan Tanouye, one of Holguin’s instructors, said he was impressed with his drive and talent.
“He’s a great player, and he’s already making a name for himself,” Tanouye said. “He was a substitute bass player for ‘Mamma Mia!’ this summer, and he’s in most of the jazz bands on campus.”
Holguin’s mother enjoys browsing online for real estate, although the homes are beyond her means. Holguin knows she has her eye on a home that has been on the market for several years.
“I come from a family of ranchers, and she’s looking at a place on the east side of town, where there are dirt roads and you can have horses,” Holguin said. “I’ve worked it out. I need to make about 300,000 sales to get it.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.