HARLINGEN — It started with Barney, and there’s no end in sight.

Kate Scaief has a lifelong passion for the violin. So committed is she to the instrument, she’s up for exploring any way it can be played.

“It’s a really diverse instrument, and you can play it in any different setting,” said Kate, a senior at Harlingen High School.

Once she saw Barney the purple dinosaur playing the violin, she was hooked.

“I play at church, I play mariachi music, classical music, anywhere you want to fit it in,” she said.

Kate, 18, has developed her talent and musical range so well that the Texas Music Educators Association has just named her first chair in the Region 28 Mariachi Band, which will have its concert next month.

“Anyone who plays the violin in our area could audition,” she said. “There were a lot of people from Edcouch and there were a couple of people in my school.”

Matthew Garcia, a student at Harlingen School of Health Professions, made second chair.

What made the difference between Kate and someone else making the cut?

“I play with a group outside of school, Mariachi Margaritas,” she said. “I don’t just play inside school so I think I have some more actual experience.”

Kate was invited to participate in the group by an orchestra teacher.

“I just learned mariachi music under her so she invited me to play in it last year for the Houston Rodeo and I’ve just been playing with them ever since,” she said.

Of all the genres she’s played, she enjoys mariachi the most.

“I think it’s a lot more fun than playing classical music on the violin,” she said. “You get to interact with the audience. It’s more showy and it’s a lot of fun.”

Exploring this unique cultural genre has expanded her talent.

“I think the style is something really important,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot. And other than that just becoming better at the violin because I play every Friday and Saturday. We do gigs and I just play a ton and that’s really helped my skill level.”

She’s also enjoyed the cross-cultural experience

“The group I’m in, it’s all girls, they’re all older than me, none of them are really my age except for one girl, she’s in college,” she said. “They’ve really taken me under their wing even though I’m white and I don’t speak Spanish that well. I’ve gotten lots of exposure to culture and the language. They’re great.”

Curiously, she doesn’t plan to pursue music in college or professionally. She plans to study business. But she definitely wants to keep up with the violin for an entire lifetime.

“I’m thinking of going to UT and they’ve got a mariachi band there and an orchestra that I would audition for and just to play in for fun,” she said. “Or I might go to A&M and there they don’t have a lot to do. Maybe I could find a country band to play in and play the fiddle.”