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AJ Castillo on Crystal Accordions and Family Legacies

27 Aug 2013

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We talked with rising Tejano superstar AJ Castillo about his musical family and the stories behind his remarkable customized accordions. AJ Castillo is the headliner at the Marfa Lights Festival at Marfa’s Vizcaino Park this Saturday, August 31. The Resonators open.

Tickets are $20 in advance at Ballroom Marfa, The Big Bend Sentinel and Marfa National Bank. They’re also available for $25 at the gate. Kids under 12 get in free. Read more on our AJ Castillo page.

How did you decide that the accordion would be your instrument of choice?

My grandfather played the accordion and introduced me to the instrument at a very young age. Also when I would go to dances with my parents, I was always drawn to the accordion. Around the age of 9 or 10 I decided that the accordion was the instrument that I wanted to play. I practiced on my grandfather’s accordion until my parents bought me my own.

What makes your customized accordions unique? How do you work with an accordion maker?

Before being endorsed by Hohner, I worked with a close friend of mine who would customize his own accordions. I had different ideas of what I wanted and we would work on them together to make it happen. My favorite of them all is my bright green box, not just the color but the way it feels and sounds when I play it. You can see some of my different accordions on my website. My accordions have a following of their own. A lot of people like the green one and the one covered in crystals is another fan favorite. My newest Gold and White accordion was customized by Hohner. I told them what I wanted as far as the color and hardware then I added the gold plated letters before Hohner added the final clear coat.

What did you learn from your experience as a studio musician?

Being a studio musician was a great experience, I met and worked with a lot of people while doing that. Through that experience I also realized that I could produce and record my own record. At first I was going to record just an instrumental CD because I had never been a singer before. In the end I decided I would try singing and it worked out for the best.

What are the advantages of coming from a musical family?

The advantages are that I’ve been around this business my whole life, it’s what I know. Starting off in the family band was an important part of what shaped me to be the musician I am today.

Are there any special challenges that arise from working with family members in making music?

I love having my brother by my side up on stage and as for my Dad, I’ve been on the same stage with him since I started my musical career as a kid. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve been working together so long that there really aren’t any special challenges working with family members. The biggest challenge for me is when it comes time to record a new CD, I have so many ideas in my head of what I want to do and to get those ideas to come to life can be challenging at times.

Which other artists — musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, etc — inspire you?

My accordion influences are my grandfather, Steve Jordan and David Lee Garza. I have a wide range when it comes to the music I listen to. I listen to everything from Jazz to R&B to Tejano to Tribal to Regional Mexican to Country. I’m influenced and inspired by it all.

Have you ever traveled to Marfa before? What do you know about our part of Texas?

I have never been to Marfa before but we do have fans from that area. We are looking forward to visiting there for the first time and performing for everyone at the Marfa Lights Festival.

AJ Castillo Posters in Process

9 Aug 2013

Stephen Escarzaga screenprinting the AJ Castillo posters
Stephen working his magic, or, us showing off our gif-making skills

One joy of the music program is the talent involved at every step — poster design, screenprinting, performance, sound, lighting, photography. Here we focus on the art of screenprinting, with a few snapshots of Stephen Escarzaga of Proper Printshop printing the AJ Castillo posters, designed by Yasmine Guevara. Thanks to Stephen for documenting the process and being exceedingly rad.

More photos and fewer gifs after the jump.

Yasmine Guevara Wins Our AJ Castillo Poster Contest!

24 Jul 2013

Yasmine Guevara, with her winning design

We are excited to announce that 17-year-old Yasmine Guevara has won our AJ Castillo poster contest! Yasmine is a Marfa native, attends Marfa Senior High and works at Marfa Book Company. We did a short Q&A with Yasmine to see what inspired her design, what she’s listening to and what’s up with her custom belt buckles:

What do you do at the high school? Are you involved in any activities?
I’m involved in all the sports…like volleyball, basketball, softball, and track. I’m also in Ag mechanics, which I absolutely love.

What visual artists and designers inspire you?
Two people that have inspired me by their art and design are Buddy Knight (my Ag teacher) with his visual art and Tim Johnson with his designs!

Where did you get your idea for the poster?
Honestly, I just got the idea from my head!

Your poster is for the upcoming AJ Castillo concert. Who are your favorite musicians?
My favorite musicians are AJ Castillo, RRB, Brad Paisley…and many others.

What’s your dream band that would play the Marfa Lights Festival?
The Randy Rogers Band!

We hear you make awesome belt buckles. Can you tell us more about that?
I do make belt buckles, I absolutely love making & designing them! It’s a type of art that I am truly passionate about! If I could do it for a living I would!

Congratulations, Yasmine! Next up: We’ll work with Yasmine and Stephen Escarzaga at Proper Printshop to screenprint the posters, which should arrive in Marfa mid-August. Can’t wait to see them around town. In the meantime, you can buy tickets to the AJ Castillo concert here.

Thanks to everyone who submitted, and double thanks to our design jury — artists Brice Beasley, Grace Davis, Stephen Escarzaga and Paul Fucik.

AJ Castillo Tickets Available Online (and Poster Contest Extended, Briefly)

12 Jul 2013

Great news: Tickets to the AJ Castillo at Marfa Lights concert, August 31, are now online — buy them here.

Anyone toying with the idea of submitting to our AJ Castillo poster contest: There’s still time! Two more days to be exact — we’re accepting submissions through Monday, July 15. The contest is open to anyone age 18 or under, and winners get a $$cash$$ prize and their poster screenprinted by professionals. Email entries to info@www.ballroommarfa.org or drop them off in-person at the gallery. Take the weekend to design the poster of a lifetime. More info here.

Ballroom Marfa and the Marfa Chamber of Commerce Present AJ Castillo

11 Apr 2013

From Big Bend Now:

“Award winning Tejano accordionist AJ Castillo stars as the 27th annual Marfa Lights Festival concert returns to Vizcaino Park on Labor Day Weekend.

The Marfa Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual festival, and this year the chamber is planning a great event.

This year’s event is co-presented by Ballroom Marfa. The arts and culture organization is partnering with the Marfa Chamber of Commerce to help fund and organize the concert, which takes place on the future site of the Ballroom Drive-In, an ambitious project that will reestablish the 21-acre Vizcaino Park as a state-of-the-art performance venue and community gathering space.

Three-time award winner AJ Castillo is known for his unique accordion sound and style, his energetic live performances, and his extraordinary custom accordions.”

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