ROMA — Roma High can safely say that, for this year at least, it’s home to the most accordion champions in the state.
Jorge Ramirez and Jose Angel Torres, seniors at Roma High, were both named champions after Texas Folklife’s Big Squeeze Youth Accordion competition over the weekend.
Ramirez and Torres both received the highest awards in the conjunto category, with Ramirez winning the 17 and under division and Torres winning the 18-21 division’s “Anthony Ortiz Jr.” award.
Ramirez, 17, and Torres, 19, will receive prizes and future performance opportunities with Texas Folklife for their victory.
Roma High’s Los Cardenales, the conjunto program led by Jaime Lozano and Jesus Lozano, produced a 2019 champ as well, and Sarah Rucker with Texas Folklife commented on the caliber of the school’s players during the virtual championship.
“It’s a wonderful program down there in Roma, and all the other high schools in the Valley that have conjunto programs in their high schools,” she said. “Everyone at home, keep looking out for Roma High School and everything that’s going on there.”
Speaking after he was named champion Saturday, Ramirez said he started playing as a freshman and thanked the people who supported him as a musician.
“I’ve been so blessed. Thanks to the man above, he made everything possible. I love every one of my teachers that believed in me, my friends, my family members; they all believed in me, and I’m just super blessed to be able to carry this music to everyone around the Roma area,” he said.
Although it’s his senior year, Ramirez said he intends to keep playing. He will be eligible to compete in the upper division of the Big Squeeze until he’s 21.
“I still have not reached my full peak, I feel like there’s still much more to learn and that’s what I would like to do,” he said.
Also speaking during Saturday’s event, Torres said he started auditioning for the Big Squeeze as a sophomore and made finalist last year.
“I’m super, super happy,” he said.
Torres said the program helps him be an ambassador for his music and accordion playing.
“This contest is a really great help, because we not only get to reach the people in our area, but also people from other places, Houston and Austin,” he said. “We also get to spread this music and show what off it really means to us, and show that there is a lot of great culture in Texas and that that culture can be spread not only to the rest of the state, but also to the rest of the country.”