Celebrating Twenty Years of Conjunto in the Community

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Conjunto Heritage Taller’s establishment and the 2022 Tardeada will commence our 20th anniversary celebrations to be followed by other news and announcements from the Conjunto Heritage Taller. This year’s Tardeada is dedicated to our community and supporters, who, over the past twenty years, have displayed a deep commitment to upholding CHT’s conjunto music programming. We invite our supporters and the greater San Antonio community to join us on August 27th, 2022 at Rosedale Park, 5pm-11pm for a free family-friendly celebration with food, drinks, merchandise, raffles, live entertainment and more!

The Conjunto Heritage Taller was established in 2002 by Carol Rodriguez, Rodolfo Lopez, and Fernando Villegas, conjunto enthusiasts, who were committed to the preservation, instruction, and perpetuation of traditional conjunto music. Since then, CHT has developed and implemented conjunto music programming throughout our community and beyond.

Conjunto Heritage Taller realizes its mission with a variety of programming that prioritizes traditional methods of performance, focused on the button accordion and bajo sexto, including music instruction and education, performances, and community events. The most popular and longest-running programs include our talleres, or workshops, through which our music instructors lead group lessons on the accordion or bajo sexto; Conjunto in the Community, which focuses on educating and exposing our audiences to conjunto music through public performances that allow students to perform and showcase their skills while simultaneously exposing the community at large to the conjunto genre; Conjunto Senior Programs, through which we host at least two annual, free, 8-week long introductory accordion classes, held at different San Antonio senior centers, taught by one of our master accordion instructors.

More recently, CHT has developed and launched programs to include one-on-one accordion and bajo sexto lessons, through which students receive individual, specialized instruction on their respective instrument; Music Theory courses, as part of our core curriculum in conjunto music, aimed at providing education on various music theory concepts; a music transcription project focused on the formal documentation and digitization of undocumented conjunto songs that have not been transcribed before or may not be widely accessible.

CHT’s  work is supported by local, state, and national funders, including the City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture, Texas Commission on the Arts, Bexar County Department of Economic and Community Development and most recently, by the National Endowment for the Arts. CHT is also supported by private foundations and organizations, including the San Antonio Area Foundation, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (San Antonio), and King William Association. Additionally, CHT has received support from private businesses and individual donors, and collaborations with local businesses, like Alamo Music, and other community organizations, such as the Esperanca Peace & Justice Center, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, and Texas Folklife.

The staff and board of directors of the Conjunto Heritage Taller are grateful to our members, funders, sponsors, and partners who have helped us realize our mission for the past twenty years – we dedicate the 2022 Tardeada to our supporters.

While the 20th anniversary is a celebration of CHT supporters as well as our accomplishments to date, it also marks the commencement of a new chapter of developments for the Taller, including program expansions and launches, relocation, and enhanced student experiences to continue serving our ever-growing student population, audiences, and community.

The 2022 Tardeada celebration of “Twenty Years of Conjunto in the Community” is made possible in part by support from the City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture, Negree-Tees, Valentina Paloma, Ricardo Briones Law, Potrerito Properties, Francisco J. Flores Jr. Estate, Joe Villanueva & Family, and the Negrete Family.

Entertainment

Honorees

Jesse Borrego Sr.

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As a child, Jesse Borrego Sr. was exposed to his mother’s music of choice, mariachi and ranchera, as she typically played it in the early mornings while getting ready for the school and work day. Jesse enjoyed this music, however he took a specific liking to the accordion, “I loved the way the accordion sounded” he said when recalling his childhood memories of listening to his mother’s radio…

By the age of 14, Jesse picked up a friend’s accordion — a Hohner 2-row accordion with a “C” row and an “F” row. Though he learned on the 2-row, he was able to teach himself how to play on a three-row accordion, “I recognized the differences, and was able to merge the chords.” Jesse met guitarist Rudy Villanueva and they formed a group known as Los Desconocidos, often performing at small gatherings and birthday parties. The two later met Carlos Garcia and recorded a 45 rpm single for a small, local label.

Jesse Borrego started playing professionally (for pay) at the age of 15, while attending Harlandale High School and by the time he graduated, in May of 1958, he was offered a 3 month residency to perform as a conjunto in a Chicago dance club. The offer was $85 plus room-and-board to play three days a week for three months. He accepted the deal and quickly formed a group with Joe Cano on bajo sexto; Ramon “El Mangeras” Barrera on bass; Reymundo “Mundo” Martinez and himself on vocals and accordion.

“That was a lot of money at the time, so we agreed on the price, named ourselves Conjunto Alegria, and drove off! We ended up staying a year and a half as our pay increased. I was now able to wear Stacy Adam shoes and buy $80 suits!”

In 1960, Jesse returned to San Antonio and joined the United States Air Force. He continued playing when and where he was able. He played bass and sometimes guitar for Texas Pete and the Playboys (a country western band) while stationed in Maine and joined other musicians in the Greenland at Thule Air Base to play in a variety band that included keyboard and saxophone. For his last Air Force assignment, Jesse was stationed in Lompoc, California, where he joined forces with Macias Pena, a former vocalist and bass player for Gilberto Perez. They performed throughout the area, in Santa Maria, Salinas, and Fresno and even went on to record a 45 for Bronco Records.

Jesse headed his own band, Los Cuatro Aces de Tejas, playing on the local and national scene through the early 70s. He performed with his son’s band, Los Muertos, throughout most of the 90s and was invited by the late Valerio Longoria to play bass for his band when Longoria was featured on a PBS special. In more recent years, Jesse has played accordion and bass for the Rio Rami Band and Conjunto Los Borregos.

The Conjunto Heritage Taller is grateful and honored for the contributions that Mr. Borrego made to our conjunto program that included accompanying Bajo Sexto instructors Armando Tejeda and Richard Castillo with his exquisite accordion playing to enhance the teachings provided for many bajo students over several years before the COVID pandemic interrupted CHT’s in-person music lessons.

Source: Street Talk Magazine

Richard Castillo

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Richard Castillo is a veteran musician, having learned to play the bajo sexto instrument at the age of 15.  By the age of 19, he was playing professionally with local conjunto bands, most notably with the Conjunto de Mike Garza which recorded a number of single records.  Many of these recordings were published on record labels such as Discos Sombrero, Nopal, and Norteno.  Several of the recorded songs on those record labels were authored by the late Jose Morante and Salome Gutierrez…

Richard later married, left the music world to establish a working career and to raise and educate his two children.  However, his love of conjunto music never wavered — he occasionally played with several local groups.  Upon retirement, he returned to his beloved conjunto music.

More recently, Mr. Castillo played alongside and recorded with the late, Lorenzo Martinez, former accordion instructor at the Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio.  He has also played with another instructor colleague at the Taller, Bene Medina and his Conjunto Aguila and served as the bajista for Conjunto Los Camaroneros de Fred Saldana.  Richard continues to assist other local Conjunto groups as needed and  often volunteers playing for senior citizens and other worthy causes.

In addition to his live music and instructor trajectory, Mr. Castillo shares his musical talents and knowledge online, by self recording and sharing videos where he plays the bajo sexto part of an array of songs. Motivated by the sudden transition to digital methods of communication that many people faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Richard turned to digital and online platforms — specifically, Facebook — to share his talents and continue engaging with the community. Posting these videos on an almost weekly basis, often including background information and context on the song and original artists, Richard continues to inform and entertain community members, even exposing some people to music that they may not have otherwise known of. While his efforts are recreational, Mr. Castillo continues to play a critical role in perpetuating conjunto music in and beyond the San Antonio community through his online presence.

Richard Castillo remains an active member of the Conjunto Heritage Taller faculty and performance group, often providing bajo sexto accompaniment to CHT students and instructors during various workshops and performances. Most recently, Richard assisted Bene Medina as an instructor for CHT’s Spring 2022 Senior Conjunto Program at the Commander’s House.

Emcee

Roma Villavicencio

Roma Villavicencio is the host of Great Day SA on KENS 5 in San Antonio, Texas.
Born and raised in California, Roma Villavicencio couldn’t be happier to be in the Lone Star State. She joined the KENS 5 news team in January 2016 and moved to the Great Day SA team in 2017, where she was a co-host for the morning lifestyle program before becoming host in 2020.
Before KENS 5, Roma was a multimedia journalist at KOBI-TV in Medford, Ore., where she covered stories that gained national attention.
Stories are an important and special part of Roma’s role on Great Day SA. She enjoys meeting new people, hearing about their backgrounds and sharing their experiences with all of San Antonio.
Roma is proud of her Mexican heritage and has a deep interest in connecting with the Latino community in San Antonio.
When she’s not working, you can catch Roma at local spots, eating and exploring. On her down time, Roma enjoys cooking, listening to music, snuggling with her rescue doggy, Felix, and working out at her boxing gym.
Roma believes anything is possible if you believe in yourself and lives by Frida Kahlo’s famous quote: “Viva La Vida.”

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