HARLINGEN — When in New Orleans, tip the jazz man properly.

And when you’re at Coakley Middle School, give a special nod to Vincent Tapia, a young music aficionado who plays not one, not two, but five instruments.

“I feel natural when I’m playing,” said Vincent 12, cradling a shiny acoustic guitar in his arms.

Vincent picked up the guitar about two or three years ago, learning both acoustic and electric guitar at the same time. While some have compared him to Jimi Hendrix on the electric guitar, he prefers the acoustic.

“It has a fuller sound,” he said.

Suddenly his fingers began floating smoothly across the strings, the notes dripping into the air like liquid velvet. The music invoked the flair that can only be achieved by the gallant beauty of Spanish classical guitar.

“I like the classical sound,” he said quietly.

He was first motivated to learn guitar by seeing his brother play throughout his middle school and high school years. He picked up the electric guitar because that was the only guitar at home.

“It was my brother’s, so I kind of learned both of them at the same time,” he said.

He’s also played the piano for several years, and just this year he picked up the trombone to play in Coakley’s beginner band.

“I like jazz, I like to do rock, I like to mix genres together,” he said. “So yeah, I can do rock techniques on a jazz song or give a bluesy sound to a rock song. I like to do flamenco. I prefer the Spanish style.”

About two weeks ago, Band Director Lehi Sanchez needed a bass guitar player. Who did he approach for this task?

Vincent, of course.

“Mr. Sanchez needed a bass player for jazz next year,” he said. “It’s the same thing just without the bottom two strings and it’s an octave lower than the acoustic guitar.”

Sanchez said his young student will be in Coakley’s top honors band next year as well as jazz band.

“He’s been an excellent student,” Sanchez said. “He’s always been excited about music. He’s always been professional about it. He likes to get comments and feedback on how he can improve. I like that about him.”

For Vincent, it’s all about the audience.

“I love to perform,” he said. “There’s a feeling like, when you’re done playing, they like it and you want to continue.”

Vincent Tapia file

AGE: 12

WHAT: Musician at Coakley Middle School


INSTRUMENTS: Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, trombone, piano

PARENTS: Oscar and Melissa Tapia