(article) The Big Squeeze: Anthony, Ortiz, Jr. 2008 semi-finalist

January 2009

When fifteen year old Austin High School freshman Anthony Ortiz, Jr. grabbed the stage at the Mexican American Cultural Center during “The Big Squeeze” semi-finals last May, he represented the talented Ortiz family. Anthony’s grandfather, Guadalupe “Lupe” Ortiz, of Shorty and the Corvettes was there, as was Anthony’s dad, Anthony, Sr., who plays guitarron. His great grandfather, a migrant worker based on a ranch in Kyle, Texas played the violin in an Orquestra and his great grandmother sang. When he was twelve, Lupe learned to play from his brother in law, Isidro Samilpa, on a $5 guitar as the family traveled to California picking cotton. Back in Austin, he began playing and singing in the bars and by 19 had produced a hit record, “Un Ratito,” nominated for a Tejano Music Award. Over the years he has shared stages with the likes of Hank Williams, Jr. and Julio Iglesias.

Anthony Sr., with his twin brother Christopher on keyboards, also got an early start, playing drums with Lupe for many years. After a hiatus from playing when he first became a father, Anthony Sr. taught himself the accordion and now the guitarron. He brought his young son onstage to play the shakers and dance, but soon little Anthony wanted the accordion and loved seeing the audience smiling and dancing.

Anthony Jr. can play pretty much any instrument that is handed to him, and now as a sophomore at Austin High he plays stand up bass in the philharmonic. But making music with his family has shaped the young player’s soul, and the accordion is his special love. Together, Anthony Jr., his dad, and his grandfather are Mariachi Corbetas. His mom insisted that he save the money he was making from playing, and Anthony dreamed of purchasing a professional accordion. “I never spent a weekend going to the movies or the mall, but I loved it.” It was a long time in the saving, and he tried on many for size and the sound he could imagine. At a trade show he headed for the Gabbanelli booth and played every instrument they had. “I couldn’t put it down, I couldn’t stop playing,” he remembers feeling when he found the right one, “I never felt so happy.”