Life Stories of Four Conjunto Musicians: Adding to The Culturally Relevant Curriculum of The Rio Grande Valley Schools
Copyright 2011 Andres Martinez. All Rights Reserved.
This study examines music and culture and their importance in the learning process. As early as 1838, Horace Mann and later John Dewey (1916), Tim Brophy (1992) and others were expounding the benefits of music as a necessary element of the school curriculum. Julio Cammarota (2008), Geneva Gay (2000), Alan Singer (1994), Banks and Banks (1989) and others have argued for the importance of culture in the curriculum to enhance learning. Both elements have a unique place in the school curriculum. A brief history of the genre is presented beginning with the early years (mid 1800s), the development years (early 1900s to late 1940s) and the 1950s to the present. Similarities and differences between conjunto music and Norteño music, music from Northern Mexico, are also provided in the review of the literature. This research is a biographical study of Lower Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville, TX to McAllen, TX) musicians who influenced conjunto music from the early 1930’s to the present. The study focused on four musicians who dedicated their lives to this music genre and on their efforts to institutionalize it. The purpose of the study was to research and chronicle the lives of accordion players and recognize their contributions to conjunto music; to provide a basis for inclusion of conjunto music in the school’s culturally relevant curriculum; and to preserve their place in history in the development and perpetuation of this significant contribution to the Mexican American culture that is the conjunto music genre. The study focuses on the lives Narciso Martínez, El Huracán del Valle, Pedro Ayala, El Monarca del Acordeón, Oscar Hernández, and Benigno (Benny) Layton. The stories of their lives were reconstructed by reviewing available information in books and other media, including online sources. However, the majority of the information used was collected from interviews conducted with relatives and friends of the deceased subjects and personal interviews and communication with the subjects who were still living and their relatives and friends. The conclusion contains contributions and similarities among the four musicians along with the significance of the study, reflections and recommendations for future studies.