Update: August 1, 2017 It is with great sadness that Accordion Americana must report that Anthony Ortiz, Jr. has passed away in Texas. Hearts are broken among his family, his community, his fellow musicians, his friends, and all who witnessed his great talent. “Like a comet, blazing across the evening sky….gone too soon. Like a rainbow, fading in the twinkling of an eye….gone too soon….” Michael Jackson
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana There is a courageous young man, from Austin, Texas who is attempting to overcome all barriers placed before him. An accordion player and the descendant of immigrants, Anthony Ortiz, Jr. is smart and sophisticated; the winner of awards that recognized his exceptional talent as a musician, performing from the age of nine. But, in addition to his accomplishments, his biggest challenge, to date, is the contest he will win against the cancer that he is currently battling.
Anthony graduated from Austin High School and is studying at Austin Community College. He performs with his father and his grandfather with their family’s band, Mariachi Corbetas and was also a member of the Texas-based Country band, Crooks where he performed on accordion and trumpet. Anthony was a Big Squeeze finalist, in Texas, in 2008 and 2009 and was featured in The Big Squeeze film. He participated in the The Accordion Kings and Queens in the last ten years and performed throughout the region during that time. The young musician was honored with a resolution, “as an expression of high regard” from the Texas House of Representatives which recognized his ability and credited the lifetime achievements of the Ortiz family in Tejano music.
Anthony “grew up listening to tejano and conjunto music, and its traditions”, he writes in his article for MusicFest Magazine in 2015. His first instrument was the drums, then the guitar and finally the accordion which was acquired from a flea market. His father’s gift along with his first lesson, introduced Anthony to the piano accordion, after which his son taught himself to play. Anthony performs along with his grandfather, Lupe “Shorty” Ortiz and his father, Anthony Ortiz, Sr. in their Austin-based family mariachi band, Mariachi Corbetas. “My performance style has been shaped by the way my father plays,” he says, “full of energy, excitement and soul. I’ve also drawn influence from my idols Michael Salgado, Jamie De Anda, Flaco Jimenez, and David Ferias. I typically model my playing after their styles and techniques but add a dash of my own flavor. I blended my Spanish music knowledge with the band’s current sound to help breed a new sound of music.” Anthony refers to his style of playing as “Bandito Country”.
Along the way, Anthony acquired another accordion, a Gabinelli, “the love of my life since the day I got her”, he says, but quickly adds, “that doesn’t mean she hasn’t broken my heart.” He tells the story about the very first night of MusicFest 2015 as he was performing to a packed house on the Grand Ballroom Stage when the accordion’s bellows blew out during an “intense” accordion run. “Unlike replacing a busted guitar string or broken drumsticks, replacing a bellow on an accordion is an endeavor of surgical significance…. It’s a challenge to find another accordion when you are 7,000 feet up a mountain in Colorado, but our tight-knit music family really came through to help make the show go on!” He completed the performance on a borrowed instrument.
“On September 13, 2016, I went to the emergency room with an unbearable pain in my back. After various tests, I was diagnosed with a type of cancer, and immediately underwent surgery to remove a mass. On September 16, I began my first round of chemotherapy treatment. After spending a week in the hospital, I was released and able to return home. I will continue chemotherapy treatment to shrink the remaining masses and rid myself of cancer.”
But the rest of his story is yet to be written. As of an April 5th, 2017 update, Anthony Ortiz, Jr. has received another round of chemotherapy. He is continuing to fight his cancer with great determination and grace.
Photo by Jay Hudson
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Austin, Texas is home to one of the most diverse musical landscapes in the United States. The accordion has always had a role in the local music scene from the advent of the town’s German Beer Halls in the 1800’s, through the evolution of Tex-Mex music. Because of this presence, the accordion is alive and well represented in Texas music, today.
One of the most popular and respected Texas accordionists is Debra Peters. For the last 24 years, she has consistently performed in Austin and all around Texas with her band, Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band. Debra is a career singer, songwriter, accordionist, pianist and session musician. Also, well-known in Austin as a teacher of the accordion, she is an entrepreneur, producing and marketing her own music recordings and accordion educational videos.
Women musicians who have their own bands are rare. But, a woman musician with the professional longevity that Debra Peters has shown, are all the more rare. Monthly, for the last 2 decades, Debra Peters has appeared at the legendary Broken Spoke in Austin. Also, throughout that time, Debra and her band have toured Europe, Japan, Mexico, North America and Hawaii. Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band were featured at the International Accordion Festival held in San Antonio, Texas. They are scheduled to appear at the upcoming 2016 Texas Folk Life Festival in Austin. This marks the 32nd anniversary for Texas FolkLife, which was started in 1984. The festival presents and honors the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Tex-Mex and Zydeco/Cajun music are represented in The Love Saint’s Band’s repertoire along with Americana, polkas and other dance music. The daughter of a Canadian railroad engineer, Debra enjoys performing a selection of railroad songs, as well.
As an accordion educator, Debra has presented workshops every year for the past 12 years. ” I am a lifelong music student as well as a lifelong music teacher. Around every corner, there is always something more and great to learn!” Her vision of producing and marketing her own accordion educational videos came out of a workshop held in Las Vegas. Upon viewing an accordion lesson video done by another accordionist, Debra remembered that, as a child, she was introduced to the piano by a lesson video on VCR. At that moment, she determined that she would create her own lesson videos. “It was almost like I was stung by a bee!” Immediately, she went to work to produce an educational video and, in 2005 created The Blues, Chords and Chops. The reaction from her students was positive and in 2007, Debra created The Blues ,Chords and Chops, Volume II. Since then, she has produced and marketed other video accordion lessons, including one that focuses on bass patterns for the Stradella bass keyboard, 25 Bass Patterns. It was a lot of work for the already busy musician to “write and present the lessons, film and edit them, design the covers, produce the actual copies, set up the mail system, build a website, and do the marketing.” She persevered, and today sales from her web site are healthy and she has plans for more lesson videos.
Her enthusiasm for the accordion and her passion for people is evident. Debra strives to encourage others to play the accordion, especially girls and other women. A hardworking professional musician, Debra Peters is inspired, not only to entertain, but to empower others who seek to become skillful accordionists locally and in places far away from her Austin, Texas home. Update: Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band have been invited to participate August 20-21, 2016 at the Cotati Accordion Festival, Cotati California.
Love Saints Music, Austin Texas USA