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18 Aug
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            “Flat 5 Music Studios” started off as a dream, which later turned into reality.  As a young boy, Fred Barrera dreamt of playing metal music like some of his musical idols.  His business partner, Jonathan Arias, had a dream of producing Jazz infused sounds.  Unfortunately for both, Laredo studios largely focused on classical music, and they did not have the ability to teach those styles of music. This led Barrera and Arias to teach themselves through any means possible; Barrera went as far as asking another musician, playing metal at Hermes Music, to teach him.

            Today, Flat 5 Music Studios provides inspiring musicians or musical lovers an alternative to teaching themselves through informal means such as YouTube.  Whether you are barely picking up your first instrument or have years of practice, Flat 5 provides an opportunity for young metal heads and jazz lovers to learn to play what they wish and further their musical knowledge. “Flat 5 Music Studios is musical education that caters to the customer, as opposed to before when you had to learn Mozart and didn’t have a say” Arias explained. As someone who wanted to play Jazz, Arias agrees that the foundations within classical music are important, but there are alternative methods to gaining the same knowledge. 

Optimized-IMG 7381  This is visible through their ability to use their own musical knowledge to educate their students. What make Flat 5 Music Studios different is its rock core, and their ability to incorporate that into different musical styles. Posters of famous bands and artists from Jimi Hendrix, Atreyu, KISS, and even local artists cover the walls.  Racks full of Guitar World and other musical magazines entertain guests as they enter the teal shaded walls and sit on the leather couch waiting to be received.  Through their musical displays, their instruments, and staff members—this studio oozes rock.  However, Barrera and Arias are happily willing to learn and teach other genres of music. Flat 5 Music Studios provides a music haven where students can learn any style of music: classical, country, rock, and even techno. 

        Barrera has been teaching for over 10 years; his musical knowledge credited to Elmo Lopez Music Company, where he met Arias. Arias worked at Elmo Lopez for approximately 4 years on the retail aspect of the store.  This allowed Arias to gain his knowledge of instruments and their components. Today, Barrera and Arias work in unison as owners of Flat 5 Music Studios, where they teach students how to play the piano, guitar, and drums, among other instruments and vocals.  Barrera and Arias go the extra mile to teach their students, by deviating from traditional methods.  This is not to say that they don’t teach their students basic techniques, such as reading music.  However, when students want to learn a certain song or rhythm, they will learn the song and teach it to their students part by part. “The goal is to essentially be able to read music fluently, but sometimes the music doesn’t lend itself to it,” Arias explained.  He adds sometimes if it’s too advanced, it is easier for him to teach how to count rhythms, and then later worry about reading. In addition to this, they also discuss the theory and background of the song, in order to further their student’s musical knowledge.

Flat 5 Music Studios gives musicians other opportunities to make their own choices and how their lessons fit into their lifestyle. To help accommodate music lessons into busy family schedules, Flat 5 Studios does not operate under contract, like other Laredo studios. This allows parents and students the liberty to work at their own pace and take off time when necessary. Their primary focus is to meet the customer’s needs, and this gives them the liberty to decide their own schedule.  Registration is open to the public at any time, whether it is the beginning or the middle of the month. The ability of Barrera and Arias to listen to the needs of their students makes for a more successful business and for students to give their best.This hard work and dedication has paid off with a number of students that have stepped out of their studio with superior musical knowledge and talent. Barrera often has previous students stopping him to share their current endeavors. For example, Arias and Barrera taught ‘Volatile Colour,’ a Laredo band, who recently released their full-length professionally recorded album and music video.  ‘Volatile Colour’ is a prime example, of the capacity that Flat 5 Music Studios has to offer to future and current students.

15 Aug
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Price Range: $ (0-10)


Scholars Caffe Barista has re-opened their doors to the public. Scholars Caffe serves the community top quality coffee and beverages. Recently, Scholars has incorporated new menu items soon to come later this year. Scholars Cafe has been in business for the past year. It is one of those places where Laredoans can come and relax, read and catch up, or surf the web with their complimentary Wi-Fi service.

 Today, I am having a Caramel Frappé, one the many drinks here at scholars (they also have it in chocolate). Other
specialty drinks include, Espressos, Cappuccinos, Lattes, teas, etc. 

  Like always the coffee is top quality and is grinded at the bar. You are also given the option to add some  cream Optimized-image 3 1to your drink or one of their various pastries for a drizzle of flavor. Scholar’s also includes the option of preparing your drink with 2 percent, soy, or whole milk in order to incorporate different lifestyles. I give this frappé 5 out of 5 stars. 

            What I also had to today was one of the many Italian sodas they offer. Just to name a few they have: Strawberry, Raspberry, and Cherry. I chose the Mint flavored soda because of the freshness and its refreshing feel after being in the hot Laredo heat. I highly recommend trying any of their many flavors.


 In summary this is not your ordinary coffee shop from the show “Friends.” This is a lay back place to enjoy your favorite brew or bagel, catch up with friends, or to have a work break. This is also a great place to socialize. Scholars’ demonstrates a new atmosphere and a side of Laredo that we must embrace.


            Scholar's Caffe Barista is now located at 120 W. Village Blvd # 115, Laredo, Tx.  Their work hours include Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.  The staff is always eager to welcome new customers with walk-ins and take-out orders encouraged, but for the organized socialite—reservations are available.


For more information or reservations call 956-718-5855, or visit their website.

05 Jun
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All streets lead downtown. So says the motto of Laredo Main Street. As of Monday, they now lead to N.Y. Style Pizzeria and Restaurant.

This latest local upstart supported by Main Street's downtown revitalization efforts occupies old Richter's building at 1002 Iturbide Street close to the brick streets of Tatangelo Parkway. It held a ribbon cutting and community sampling Monday before opening for the public Tuesday.

"It's something not available in this area," Abel Castro said about pizza done the New York Way. Castro works as project manager for American Properties, which owns the pizzeria. Castro will manage the staff of 15, which he anticipates will soon grow to a staff of 20.

"By the looks of it," he added, "we're going to have long hours. We plan to open up at eleven o'clock in the morning and stay open until midnight. When it comes to Friday and Saturday, we'll probably open until three o'clock in the morning."

As Castro spoke, his staff pulled hot pies from the industrial oven.

"One of our pizzas is actually 28 inches. You cut that into eight slices, it's a pretty big slice," he said, alluding to coming-off-the-plate, foldable slices for which New York pizza is famous. "We also use sourdough."

Sourdough cultures are grown and kept in the store, and it gives the pizza a distinct flavor. alt

In terms of ambiance, the restaurant sports the colors of Italy and quaint outdoor seating.

Laredo Main Street Director Sandra Rocha Taylor noted that American Properties also owns the property next door occupied by On the Rocks Tavern. She said the property owners have not only offered to help promote both establishments but have helped tenant business acquire state liquor licences. 

"How often do you see that? Most people will just lease the property and then say 'I hope it works out'," Rocha Taylor said. "They're really investing their time and energy. It's everybody coming together."

She added that one of Main Street's challenges has been helping business owners think beyond the old way of doing business downtown. Many stores counted on Mexican customers to clear their shelves. Often these customers would themselves resell the merchandise back in Mexico. The downturn in Mexican clientele due to fears of drug-related violence forced downtown business to adapt. Main Street helps them do this by encouraging them to turn northward and attract more local customers. They also offer workshops on a variety of topics and financial help such as facade grants that help stores look more appealing.

Has it worked? Over the last month Rocha Taylor has received more calls from entrepreneurs inquiring about downtown space.

"I think downtown's really seeing a transformation," she said.


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