Although we enjoyed many different adventures on this trip, one individual stood out for me. I will explain in a moment, but first here is a sample of things we enjoyed. An experienced storyteller; a visit to one of the best Spanish missions in the San Antonio area; the river walk in the center of town; an explanation of San Antonio's water system (very interesting); time in the Texas white house (also known as LBJ's ranch); lunch at the Menger hotel.
I really enjoyed the music of Rodolfo Lopez. Rodolfo is a native San Antonion and has lived there most of his life. An educator and musician, he is very clear and enthusiastic when he describes the traditional Conjunto music he has a passion for. Conjunto is a unique Texas/Mexican folk music derived from accordion music Europeans brought into Mexico (now Texas) long before Texas became a state.
Conjunto music revolves around the bajo sexto and an accordion. Rodolfo says "I like to compare the bajo sexto to a swing on which the accordion swings its melodies." Rodolfo's bajo sexto was made by Martin Macias, a San Antonio luthier famous for his craft.
Rodolfo was nearly 50 years old when he decided to learn to play the traditional Conjunto music. He took lessons at a local Cultural Arts Center and then progressed to a high level of skill on the instrument. His original idea was to accompany an old friend who played accordion. However, things went much farther than that. Being an educator, it seemed a natural next step to teach this traditional music to a younger generation. This music is mainly instrumental, consisting of waltzes, redovas, and polkas.
Rodolfo told me that the "nuestra musica de South Texas" was unique to South Texas. He wanted to keep the music alive by teaching it. As resident artist with the Texas Commission for the Arts, he started a Conjunto music class at the Teatro de Artes de Juan Seguin. The Teatro is located in Seguin, Texas about 30 miles East of San Antonio. The program lasted 17 years and produced most of the active Conjunto accordionists in South Texas.
Three years later, he co-founded the Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio where he teaches in his 13th year. Several students from this program are now in college and two of them are studying music education. This happy, toe tapping music is alive and well in San Antonio thanks to Rodolfo Lopez. He is a true American original; I like his personality and the work he is doing. I am happy to have met this man in San Antonio. A big Thank you to Road Scholar!