(blog) Conjunto Education in South Texas Schools

If you’ve been supporting and/or following Texas Folklife for the last several years, you’ve probably heard the name Juan Longoria, Jr.

Longoria, a native of Brownsville, won the Big Squeeze accordion contest in its inaugural year of 2007. He also leads the band Conteño, a unique group that blends the sounds of Conjunto, Tejano and Norteño music traditions. In 2012, he began teaching at Los Fresnos High School. Longoria was the first music teacher at LFHS to initiate the beginnings of what has now become a thriving Conjunto education program. Preceding the establishment of LFHS’s Conjunto program, La Joya ISD in the Western Rio Grande Valley pioneered this sort of program in the late 1980s when it started teaching Conjunto alongside its other performing arts ensembles, such as orchestra and mariachi. Since then other Rio Grande Valley schools, such as San Benito HS, have also started Conjunto programs. When Longoria began this journey however, he was facing the odds of entering a school that previously had no Conjunto program and worked diligently to capture student interest in his class. Originally housed in the Theatre & Dance program in 2012, his classes for accordion, bajo sexto and more moved into the Band department in 2013. These days, Longoria has no problems with student enrollment. He now has a waiting list for students eager to take his classes.

Recently, Longoria along with the hard work of his students in Conjunto Halcon achieved another first by competing in UIL under the category of Experimental Music with Conjunto:

The group competed with the musical piece Guadalajara under an experimental ensemble in the Texas UIL form 8. The only way we were able to compete in UIL was by writing our own sheet music, being that there is no sheet music in our field. We included 5 different accordions. The first three accordions harmonized in first, second and third. The fourth accordion had a completely different pattern and the fifth accordion was the lead. We also included the bajo sexto, bass guitar and the snare drum. We had to write down every note and rhythm pattern for each instrument but at the end it was all worth it! We were able to come out of there with a rating of 1.” –Juan Longoria, Jr.

Congratulations to Conjunto Halcon from Texas Folklife. See them perform live Saturday, March 29 at the Big Squeeze showcase at Los Fresnos High School.

Edited by Iliana Vasquez