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.