Born in Raymondville, Texas in 1939, Bene Medina began playing the accordion at the age of 13, and by the time he was 18, he had started his own conjunto. After serving in the US Army for 2 years, he returned to South Texas, and in 1964 moved to San Antonio, where he has lived since then. He worked at a local utility for 30 years and was the second Mexican American journeyman to become an electrician therein, but always continued his involvement in music. He formed Bene Medina y Conjunto Aguila in 1965, and still actively leads that band. Bene also taught accordion at a local music store for seven years before coming to teach at the Conjunto Heritage Taller almost 15 years ago. After a brief absence we are very happy to welcome Bene Medina back to the Taller, where he will once again be teaching accordion.
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 and recorded a number of single records. He later married, left the music world to focus on work, and to educate and raise his two children. However, his love of conjunto music never wavered and he occasionally continued to play with several local groups when his schedule allowed. Upon retirement, he returned to his beloved conjunto music. He now continues to play with several local conjunto groups, volunteers playing for senior citizens and other worthy causes, and is currently enjoying his role in helping to keep conjunto music alive as the bajo sexto instructor for the CHT!
Aaron Daniel Salinas
Accordion | Bajo sexto
Aaron’s musical journey began at 9 years old when he started taking lessons at the Conjunto Heritage Taller. Learning under Maestros Lorenzo Martinez and Chucho Perales, Aaron is well-versed on both the Accordion and Bajo Sexto. He credits his grandfather for instilling his passion for the Accordion and Conjunto music. Aaron is a Texas Folklife Big Squeeze Champion, winning the Conjunto Grand Prize in 2014. After completing his degree at Baylor University in Computer Science in 2016, Aaron returned back to San Antonio and joined the CHT as an instructor and educator. Today, Aaron is an accomplished musician who plays over 25 instruments and a variety of musical genres.
A graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a Bachelors degree in Music Education and a minor in Mathematics. Joey’s primary instrument at TAMUK was trumpet, but he has been playing accordion since the age of 10 years old. When he was younger, his parents would take him to the dances at Rosedale Park and Market Square to hear musicians such as Bernardo y Sus Compadres, Flaco Jimenez, Mingo Saldivar, Los Dos Gilbertos, and many more. Joey grew up around Conjunto and Tejano Music and grew a deep love for it. This was mainly influenced by his father, Joe Villanueva Sr. who played accordion in the 1980s with a couple bands in the Schertz-Cibolo area. When he turned 10 years old, his parents asked Joey if he wanted to take accordion lessons and he said yes. Joey started taking lessons at the Conjunto Heritage Taller under the instruction of Lorenzo Martinez in 2003. While a part of the taller, he had the opportunity to perform at a variety of events and work with many talented musicians. He also formed a conjunto group with my fellow musician from the taller, Aaron Salinas. The group performed at a variety of events including the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Tejano Conjunto Festival and recorded a three-song demo in 2014. “My love for Conjunto is a big reason why I decided to study music in college,” says Joey. While in college, he had the opportunity to be featured as an accordion soloist within a variety of ensembles including Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, and Symphonic Band.
Assistant Instructor & Administrator
Alex Valles is a current UTSA student, majoring in Music with a focus in Composition. Her primary instrument is the cello but she also enjoys playing violin, piano, bajo and of course the accordion. During her senior year of high school, Alex took her first music theory class and completely fell in love with the subject. Even though she always knew she wanted to pursue a career in music, it wasn’t until taking this class that she gained a clearer vision of her professional, musical interests. Since then, Alex has had the opportunity to become the mentee of UTSA music theory professor Dr. Jennifer Beavers, teaching beginning strings with UTSA string project, and transcribing many conjunto pieces by the talented accordionist Narciso Martinez. Being a native Chihuahuense, Alex feels a deep connection to conjunto music as she’s able to connect to both her Mexican and American roots through this music style. She believes that through music theory not only are we able to learn more about the meaning of different songs, but also have a greater appreciation for the musicians that created these musical traditions.
Eduardo C Garza
Artist, Actor, Poet, Dancer, Musician, c/s