By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Luis Martinez and Marah Armenta were students at Glendale Community College when they met in music theory class nearly 12 years ago.

Martinez was studying guitar performance, and Armenta was focusing on vocal performance.

The following spring, in 2009, they performed stripped-down versions of Rihanna’s “Russian Roulette” and Tamia’s “Officially Missing You” at a GCC talent show. Despite a few missteps, it was magic.

“We go through it and we felt this could actually work out,” says Armenta, who lives in Glendale. “There was another talent show opportunity that came up, and we performed as a trio. We couldn’t keep our pianist as a trio for future shows, but the duo worked out so perfectly that we kept doing open mics in the Glendale area.”

Armenta and Martinez, a Peoria resident, now perform as LuMar throughout the Valley. Their next show is Friday, August 28, at Amped Coffee Company in Anthem.

“Listeners can expect a wide variety of music in several different styles,” Martinez says. “We add our own flavor to them, though.”

The duo performs mostly R&B and pop cover songs, but they weave into the setlist originals as well.

“It depends on the audience, of course,” she says. “I’m very subtle about presenting the original songs we have. It’s my way of playing it safe.”

The two are also part of the band The Stakes, an energetic seven-piece act that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, played at Valley Bar, Crescent Ballroom and The Rebel Lounge. The Stakes had a residency at MonOrchid in Phoenix when the pandemic hit.

“They’re definitely more hip-hop, fused with jazz and funk,” she says, adding that The Stakes sometimes hits 10, when they add a horn section. “We live for the live show aspect. It’s a whole ’nother energy that comes together.”

The pandemic has been rough on LuMar and The Stakes, as they’ve lost their main source of income. They’ve managed to stay afloat with livestreams, occasional coffeeshop shows like the one at Amped, and giving music lessons.

“We did one small birthday party that made us feel alive again,” she says. “It’s been interesting, to say the least.”

Throughout the pandemic, The Stakes have released singles every other Friday. In August, they are slated to release an EP, “Now or Never,” which is a collection of the singles.

“We may be going live for a segment of our show on August 28, in case people aren’t feeling comfortable coming out or can’t make it to the show at Amped,” she says. “We’ll be on social media as well. Tip options will be available, in case someone feels nice.”

LuMar and the Stakes,