I’ve spent the past 20+ years in galleries, corporate offices, backstage, studios, outdoor parks and indoor stadiums living an artful life and now it has come full circle. My love of art, and music specifically, began with my parent’s beige-yellow 4-foot wide console that took it’s place of importance next to our color tv with dial channel changer. The record collection we had might have been small but I loved to open that top and insert my favorite Juan Gabriel album and sing my heart out in the living room. My brother and I eventually learned an instrument or two and wound up playing in the school mariachi. As I got older, I got good grades, received ribbons for whatever singing, poetry and dance competition we had and eventually made it into the high school honor society. I don’t mean to brag but it is relevant to this story because you know those grade-school achievements don’t really matter in your 40s.
Part of being a member of this exclusive high achiever club was a required amount of volunteer hours. My cousin worked in a nursing home and she often paraded me around in whatever adorable costume I had on for that year’s school play so it was an atmosphere I felt somewhat comfortable in. I decided to volunteer at a nursing home near my house but after a series of interesting experiences including an escapee, a few wardrobe malfunctions and the overall sadness of the place I decided to look elsewhere to fulfill my requirement.
I decided to call up the local Mexican cultural center and see what I could do. I was familiar with the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center having taken a couple of their singing classes, attended a play or two, and eventually performed on the history theater stage for various recitals. Right around the time I called, they were gearing up for the annual Conjunto Festival. So on a beautiful sunny day, I arrived at Rosedale Park to volunteer for the event. The man in charge was Juan Tejeda. He greeted me and took off on a high-speed tour of the grounds pointing out the booths, stage, and the shiny new accordions set to be raffled that weekend. I can’t tell you what I wound up doing that day but it was my first time working behind the scenes of a cultural event instead of performing at one.
That was 199_? We’ve come a long way baby! It is now 2017. Juan retired last year from the festival as well as his teaching career and has passed the torch to the Guadalupe’s new director, Cristina Ballí. Running this large organization takes up quite a bit of time so Cristina reached out to me to join the festival planning team. I’m back to where it all started! Working logistics and PR this time with the years of experience, knowledge, and passion for music, this particular festival, and the growing arts scene in San Antonio. It’s an exciting time to be in town. The city is growing and creating its artistic identity as we speak. It is combining the historic with the contemporary and finding the right balance of both. Working the 36th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival is an honor and a way to keep the tradition going. As we move forward in life and career, I am glad that I can always come back home and continue the work that was started and kept alive by dedicated folks like Juan and the Guadalupe staff and volunteers.
Image: Conjunto Dancers by Al Rendon