SAN BENITO, Texas – The City of San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum, in association with the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum, presents the second of four presentations from the History of Conjunto Music Documentary & Lecture Series of 2018.
The program is scheduled on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the San Benito Community Building Auditorium.
The evening will feature a special screening of For a Quarter a Song, a documentary on Valerio Longoria, an accordion player and a prominent early figure in South Texas conjunto music. Guest speaker will be Dr. Manuel Medrano, producer of the documentary and history professor at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.
Conjunto, which translates to ensemble, is a style of dance music in which the accordion leads a small band that includes a guitarlike bajo sexto, a tololoche, and the drums. In the development of the music, Longoria was a contributing pioneer after creators of the genre, like Narciso Martinez and Santiago Jimenez.
Valerio Longoria was born in Kenedy, Texas in 1924, one of nine children of cotton field workers. He began playing accordion at age seven, observing and learning from Narciso Martinez, the accordionist who in the mid-1930’s recorded and helped conjunto become a popular, working-class dance music and created a new, more indigenous Texas-Mexican style of playing the accordion, earning Martinez the name “El Huracan del Valle.”
As a teenager, Longoria was drafted into the Army in 1942. Toward the end of his service, he was stationed in Germany where he played the accordion in local nightclubs.
Soon after, he returned to San Antonio where he recorded with Corona Records. Longoria would later sign with Ideal Records in San Benito, where he would remain for almost a decade establishing himself as an innovator and contributor to the evolution of the conjunto sound. He later went on to record for labels in Chicago and California.
After living for a time in Los Angeles, Longoria moved back to San Antonio in 1980 and began a 20-year teaching career at the Guadalupe Cultural Center, where he taught accordion classes to over a thousand students. In 1986 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship Award, and was also recognized with lifetime achievement awards by the Polka Music Association, the San Antonio Awards, and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Valerio Longoria passed away on Dec. 15, 2000 and is buried in Mission Burial Park South in San Antonio. In 2002, Valerio Longoria was honored and inducted into the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Benito, along with conjunto musicians Narciso Martinez, Eligio Escobar, and TV personality Domingo Peña.
Dr. Medrano is a professor emeritus from UTRGV, specializing in Mexican American history and culture. He is a former member of the Humanities Texas Board and in 2009 served as a Visiting Scholar for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. He has authored three published historical/cultural poetry books, an authorized biography, and has also co-authored two books and twenty-five published articles, all about Valley people and events.
Since 1993, Dr. Medrano has produced and directed, in conjunction with the University of Texas – Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley Media Services, 30 Los del Valle oral history profiles of people and events in the Rio Grande Valley, including legendary conjunto pioneers Narciso Martinez and Valerio Longoria.
The City of San Benito is excited to work closely with the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum, a 501c 3 non-profit organization which strives to preserve and promote the Texas history and musical heritage of Conjunto music, said Museum Coordinator Luis Contreras.
The public is invited to this second program from History of Conjunto Music Documentary & Lecture series. The San Benito Community Building Auditorium is located at 210 E. Heywood, San Benito. For information contact Rey Avila at 956-245-1666. Admission is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served.