Friday, May 31, 2013

Tony Garcia Hoping To Become The Next Valley Native to Win The Big Squeeze Finals‏


This is going to be a week that Tony Garcia will remember for the rest of his life. On Wednesday, he graduated from Juarez-Lincoln High School. On Saturday, he's going to be competing at Texas Folklife’s 24th annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival in Houston.

Jesus Garza, a teacher at Juarez-Lincoln High School, was the individual that introduced the Big Squeeze competition to Garcia at the start of his senior year.

"I sent a video (to Texas Folklife), that was the first time I ever tried out," said Tony Garcia, 18-years-old, from Mission.

The try-out video included "Picame Tarantula" (huapango) and "Ciudad Victoria" (polka). After the video was reviewed by Texas Folklife's judges, he was called up to compete at the semi-finals in Austin on April 20. Based off his performance that day at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum, he advanced to the Big Squeeze Finals on June 1. Garcia will be competing at the Miller Outdoor Theatre for the Big Squeeze championship against three other finalists: Luis Gonzalez, 17-years-old, Grand Prairie; Yesenia Garcia, 17-years-old, Houston; and Michael Ramos, 17-years-old, Dallas. The winner will walk away with a prize package that includes a new Hohner accordion, a cash prize, performance opportunities and much, much more.

Garcia's been a remarkably fast learner. He's only been playing for 2 1/2 years, so it wasn't that long ago that he got his first accordion — a Hohner Compadre en el tono de sol (in the key of GCF).

"As I got out of baseball practice, my dad called me and told me that he had gotten me the accordion he promised me for two years," Garcia said. "The ride on the bus could not go any faster, it seemed like it took me hours to get home."

As soon as he got home, he got his hands on the accordion he had been eagerly waiting for. Unfortunately, he couldn't do much with it that first day since he didn't know how to play the unique instrument. When you hear about conjunto musicians, it's typically a family tradition passed down from generation to generation. But Garcia's story is different. He was the first member in his family to acquire a squeezebox.

"I don't have any uncles or (family members) that had ever gotten an accordion before," Garcia said. "I'm actually the first one, I learned by myself. Honestly, it's all by ear, all by desire."

Since his first accordion, he's gone on to add three more to his personal collection — another Hohner Compadre, a Hohner Xtreme and a Gabbanelli. There was just something about the accordion that grabbed a hold of Garcia and wouldn't let go. He was hooked.

"The thing that really attracted me was you can express yourself," Garcia said. "It's a stress reliever. It's a thing that at the end of the day, that you actually want to go play."

When I asked Garcia about who his two biggest musical influences were, he was quick to answer with two accordionists. The first being norteño virtuoso Juan Villarreal.

"Watching him live is something else," Garcia said. "He just makes everything look so easy but man everything is so hard from him. His melodies are not easy. Like how my generation (uses the word) 'swag', he has a different type of swag."

His other favorite musician is conjunto icon Paulino Bernal.

"His polkas are very different," observed Garcia. "I like the melodies he likes. It's something very different that you don't hear from (other) accordion players."

Despite having a lot on his plate, with practicing the accordion at home and being a part of Conjunto Sol (his school's conjunto), he still found time for other extracurricular activities. A sports enthusiast, Garcia was often seen on the baseball field, playing left-field for the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies. Now that his high school days are officially over, he's making plans for the next chapter of his life.

"I want to go to college and get a degree," Garcia said enthusiastically.

While he looks ahead to the future, Garcia is confident that an accordion will always be by his side.

"It's my favorite hobby," Garcia said. "It's a thing that I would like to do for the rest of my life, it's an awesome feeling (playing the accordion). If I ever have a son, I would love for him to play."

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