By DAVID LOPEZ
San Benito News
Accordion y bajo sexto filled the air at La Plaza de San Benito last Saturday as high schools from across the U.S.-Mexico border competed in the High School Conjunto Competition and Conjunto Student Showcase hosted by City of San Benito.
Sounding more like professionals than adolescents, four high school varsity conjuntos competed for the top honor: Conjunto Diamante from La Joya, Conjunto Halcon of Los Fresnos, Conjunto La Tradicion from Palmview, and the conclusive winners, Los Cardenales de Roma of Roma High.
“This event is focused on the education of conjunto music at the high school level,” said Felix Espinoza Jr., founder and board member of La Cultura Vive en Brownsville. This was the third year that La Cultura Vive en Brownsville organized the event. “As you know, a lot of our conjunto seniors citizens are leaving us, so we don’t want the culture disappearing completely, and since the high schools are teaching conjunto music, and they don’t compete at the UIL level, our committee developed this event to allow students to compete at a professional level for the high school,” said Espinoza.
The competition is graded by three judges using a scoring system from 1 to 10, tasked with the difficult decision of choosing a sole winner from a pool of tremendous talent. The conjuntos are judged based on performance, presentation, and, of course, their sound.
The most noteworthy challenge of the varsity competition is that their first performance has to be original conjunto music: only bajo sexto and accordion, no vocals. This stripped down performance showcased the roots of conjunto music.
“The kids are taking it to heart, they know how difficult it is, they’ve been practicing for weeks trying to get ready,” said Espinoza.
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