Even now it’s pretty unusual for women to play conjunto music, but back in the 1960s—when Adelaida Garza and Marcella Garza Torres first picked up the accordion and drums and started touring around Central Texas with their family band—it was almost unheard of. There were a few female groundbreakers like vocalists Beatriz Llamas and Linda Escobar, as a well as a handful of instrumentalists like Lydia Mendoza, a guitarist and singer known as the “La Alondra de la Frontera” (the “Lark of the Border”), but for the most part, the scene was dominated by men.
That may have been because conjunto was often associated with “cantina” culture and involved late nights on the road, driving to and from gigs. But Adelaida and Marcella came from a long line of musicians, and both their mother and father encouraged their musical talents from early on, teaching them songs, letting them join their brothers in a band called Los Hermanos Garza, and lugging the kids around the state on tour.
The musical tradition now continues in the next generation. Marcella’s daughter, Susan Torres, plays accordion in conjuntos around Austin, including Conjunto Clemencia and Conjunto Los Pinkys, who have a regular show at the White Horse on Sunday evenings.
In collaboration with a team of youth reporters at Texas Folklife‘s summer radio workshop called “Stories from Deep in the Heart,” we produced a story chronicling some of the Garza/Torres family’s adventures and exploring the ways the conjunto tradition has been handed down from parents to children.
AISD students Arlette Flores, Jennifer Gonzalez, Roberto Hernandez, and Steven Ugalde took the lead on the research and reporting for the story. Roberto also provided narration for the piece.
KUT’s Texas Music Matters is partnering with the national Localore initiative to create the Austin Music Map: a yearlong effort to go beyond the well-traveled streets of the Austin music scene in search of the hidden places where music is being made. We want your help discovering and documenting these places. To find out how to get involved, visit the Austin Music Map website or call our hotline with stories and tips: (512) 861-8266.