Beloved musician, 24, was a master accordion player
Austin’s music community is mourning the loss of musical prodigy Anthony Ortiz Jr., who died this week after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 24.
Once Ortiz Jr. learned how to play the accordion as a 10-year-old, he never looked back. The rising accordion star went on to master the instrument, perform in mariachi and country bands and earn a loyal fan base.
“He picked up music so quick,” said his father, Anthony Ortiz Sr. “It was amazing.”
The Austin High School graduate came from a long line of musical talent. His great-grandparents were migrant farmworkers who sang and played the violin. Ortiz Jr.’s grandfather, Lupe Ortiz, gained fame in the Texas music scene of the 1960s with the band “Shorty and the Corvettes.”
In an interview with the Accordion Americana Project, Ortiz Jr. credited his father for influencing his musical style. “I taught him one song,” Ortiz Sr. said. “But he soon exceeded me and became my teacher.”
Ortiz Jr., an Austin Community College student, played with the family mariachi band Mariachi Corbetas with his father and grandfather. He also performed as a member of the country band Crooks.
“To us, he was the shining example of optimism, youth, happiness, love, unbending friendship, humor and most of all, good will,” the band wrote on its Facebook page. In 2008 and 2009, Ortiz Jr. was a finalist in the statewide accordion competition the Big Squeeze, which features accordion players under 21 who play everything from Tejano music to zydeco. His skills also were highlighted in a film about the competition.
The squeezebox savant connected with the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center while competing in the Big Squeeze and he soon taught the accordion to children at the center’s summer camps. In 2012, the MACC honored Ortiz Jr. with an Award of Excellence in the emerging artist category.
“We will always cherish his memory and the invaluable impact he made at the ESBMACC as an artist, teacher and friend,” the cultural center said in a statement. “We are heartbroken.”
Last year, Ortiz Jr. wrote a message in a crowdfunding site created by his friends to raise money for his treatment. The site also allowed him to share health updates.
“Those of you who know me,” he wrote, “know that music is my number one passion, and I can’t wait to get back on the stage to perform.” Ortiz Jr. signed his name and added “aka Mr. Squeezebox” next to it.
Friends,fansandfamilyhave filled Ortiz Jr.’s social media pages with remembrances praising his energy, enthusiasm and passion for music.
Memorial services at Mission Funeral Home on East Cesar Chavez are pending.
Anthony Ortiz Jr. played with the family mariachi band and was as a member of the country band Crooks.