Antonio Arce is making music half a world away from his childhood home in Argentina – Bemidji Pioneer

CASS LAKE — When Antonio Arce was eleven years old, he picked up one of his father’s guitars. He could barely put his arm around the instrument, but he was hooked.

Half a century later, he’s still making music, even though he’s half a world away from his childhood home in Argentina.

A full-time distance learning coordinator at Leach Lake Tribal College, Bemidji, 63, will be performing at Nally School’s Christmas program on Saturday, December 17 at 6:30 pm.

After a vacation trip to visit family in Argentina, he’ll be back on stage Friday night at Cass Lake’s LogJammerz Bar and Grill.

Arce and his wife Margaret Lubke moved to Bemidji four years ago. Active in solo live and open mic events. He loves sharing stories about his songs and draws his audience deeply into the music. He especially enjoys playing and singing romantic songs in Spanish.

“Music is a connection,” said Arce. “If you can understand the words and the melody, they will connect.”

He learned it firsthand as a teenager after hearing “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor.

“I didn’t understand the language, but I fell in love with his music,” Arce said. It was a song I wanted to learn.It’s one of about 10 songs I know in English.”

Arce’s father was a professional musician whose popular band toured in Argentina and Bolivia, so he was exposed to music from an early age. It would form the basis of his own music.

Antonio Arce and his wife Margaret Lubke moved to Bemidji four years ago.

Madeline Harsken / Bemidji Pioneer

He earned a technical degree in agriculture in Argentina and moved from his hometown to nearby Bolivia to work with the indigenous people and their agricultural practices. He then moved to Mexico, where he taught illiterate peasants.

“I used a lot of graphics and drawings to teach them,” said Arce.

In 1993, I was invited to attend the Ezra Taft Benson Institute at Brigham Young University in Utah for the first time.

The Institute works to improve the nutrition and health of the rural poor by providing agricultural science and technology. I was also able to complete a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture with a minor in International Development.

He then completed his master’s degree at Utah State University. It was there that he met Margaret, who was a research professor. They married her in 2000. Arce continued his teaching career, initially in a school district outside of Salt Lake City. After that, he worked at Fort Duchenne, Utah.Ignacio, Colorado; Taos, New Mexico

Shortly after the couple moved to Bemidji in 2018, his father lost a battle with cancer and his son returned home to Argentina for his final visit.

“When he was dying, he wanted to sing,” recalls Arce. “He said, ‘I want to sing and leave this world.’ Music was his life.

Music is also a big part of Arce’s life. He developed his own unique playing and singing style, even though he knew no notes or guitar chords in either Spanish or English.

“I love his music,” said Margaret. “I was really shocked that someone could be so talented without knowing how to read music at all.”

Arce explains: This is how I have played all my life. ”

Fellow Bemidji musician Mike Naylor was impressed by the passion Arce puts into his songs.

“He’s a true musician,” said Naylor. He has an honest type of voice. he sings his feelings ”

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When Arce first arrived in America, he wanted a new guitar and paid for it after working nine months at a local music store.

Madeline Harsken / Bemidji Pioneer

When Arce first came to America, he wanted a new guitar. He found it at a local music store, but he didn’t have the $450 (or credits) to pay for it. So he made a deal with his owner to stop by for $50 every month until he was paid.

“He saw that I was desperate to get that guitar and agreed to the deal,” Arce said.

Nine months later the guitar was his. But now he needed a nice case for his instrument.

“He told me, ‘Antonio, I believe in you. Just come pick up the case and pay every month.'”

With a new guitar (and case) in hand, Arce began sharing his musical gifts. While taking graduate classes, he worked full-time at a car wash, supplementing his income with tips and sometimes providing free meals at gigs.

“So my music helped me live in this country,” he said.

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