By Rene Torres
McAllen was home to a single-family orchestra that could make music to fill a full schedule, as all seven members of the family were always on call to give a concert to the citizens of McAllen. The famous Porfirio Guerra family, which included a child as young as four, formed a full orchestra.
In November 1937, as every year before, the band was hard in rehearsal as they prepared for their annual gigs. The only difference this time was that the family was invited to participate in the prestigious mid-winter fair held in Harlingen.
It was no surprise that the group performed in Harlingen, as one of the fair’s themes was to promote educational inspiration and constructive entertainment. The McAllen Orchestra was truly an exemplary model in music education.
Before homeschooling was a popular concept, there was no better teacher than their mother. Ms. Christina P. Guerra was herself an accomplished musician, who also served as their accompanist and instructor. The children were aged four to 12.
Tomasita, the oldest of the clan at 12, was the violinist who could also sing and dance; Junior, at age 10, played the trumpet; Angelita, eight years old, mastered the piano, played the violin, the xylophone and also knew how to dance; Seven-year-old Marin Olivia also played piano, violin and dance; Six-year-old Homero wielded the tambourine, and four-year-old Arturo was still playing the triangles.
At the age of two, Arturo didn’t sit around playing with toys, but used one (a baby rattle) to help the orchestra keep in rhythm.
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