Conjunto music legend Eva Ybarra received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), the country’s highest honor for a folk musician or traditional artist.
Ybarra, known as La Reina del Accordeon, was among nine 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellows honored at an awards ceremony on September 14 in Washington, D.C.
“For me receiving Heritage Fellowship from the National NEA for the arts means a lot,” Ybarra said. “I cannot believe it. Tears in my eyes.”
Ybarra’s career spans more than seven decades and has recorded many albums with her band, Eva Ybarra Y Su Conjunto, and has specialized in writing and composing original conjunto music while also exploring non-standard chord progressions, advancing the art form’s evolution.
“I don’t like being told that I’m the best female accordionist,” said Ybarra, “That’s not right, just say the best, one of the best, that’s all. Simple.”
At the urging of her father, she took up the accordion at age four and taught herself by listening to the radio, old LPs, and her older brother.
Ybarra is also a music educator teaching accordion, bajo sexto, and guitarron. She has been an accordion instructor at Palo Alto College’s conjunto program in her hometown of San Antonio. Currently, she fosters the development of other conjunto accordion players by teaching at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s music education program.
She was inducted into the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Hall of Fame in 2003, the Tejano R.O.O.T.S Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Tejano Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. In 2015 she received the South Texas Conjunto Association Lifetime Achievement Award.