"My Goal is to preserve and share the traditional music of my people, the Tohono O’odham Tribe of Arizona, with the youth of our nation and to educate all people of the beauty and joy of Tohono O’odham people, our music, language, and culture."
Gertie Lopez is a leading force in the performance and preservation of Tohono O’odham culture and music in Arizona and Mexico. Since she was a little girl, she has been emersed in study, performance, and preservation of her tribe’s social dance music.
Gertrude Lopez is currently employed by the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation and works in the village of San Xavier. She manages the San Xavier Learning Center Tribal Library as a coordinator, where she teaches, tutors and mentors Tohono O’odham of all ages. The center provides library time for infant/toddler programs to senior services. She provides and helps secure resources for all aspects of community interest. Gertie teaches beginning guitar and provides guidance all aspect of music for advanced students. In 2015 Gertie received the “Outreach Service Award” from the Arizona State Library Association. In 2020 she received her Early Childhood Teaching Certificate from Library Juice Academy. She has attended summer classes from Library Institute at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.
She is an outstanding ambassador of goodwill for Waila Music. She enjoys teaching music and singing to toddlers and Elders on the Tohono O’odham reservation. Gertie also is a mentor to youth on how to be a healthy musician.
Gertie is the only female band leader on the Tohono O'odham Nation and continues to keep the traditional sound alive.
Gertie plays multiple instruments and plays at private and public events nationally. Gertie and the T.O. Boyz play their music at rodeos, concerts, and dances both on and off the reservation. She often plays for sacred events at the San Xavier Mission, as well as other village churches and private events.
Growing up in Chuichu Village, just 10 miles south of Casa Grande, Arizona in the Sif-oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Gertie and her eight siblings would regularly watch their father play in a mariachi band. She and her brothers all learned to play Mexican guitars: vihuela, guitarron, and guitar. One of her sisters learned to play the drums. Her brother Steve also learned the accordion. Here, Gertie is shown with her musical family - her mother, her two sisters and brother - playing music at a church service in the White Horse Village on the Reservation.
Some 17 years ago Gertie began to play with other bands, expanding her skills and meeting new people. She recorded her first CD with a rock band called A:cim, which means “Us” in O’odham, and today she plays music with her band “Gertie and the T.O. Boyz” and has many recordings filled with her Waila music.
Gertie and the Finnish Connection
Gertie is highly respected and beloved among her Tohono O'odham peoples and throughout the southwestern states, as well as into the midwestern states within the nordic community. Because of the musical similarities and willingness to share the music of her Nation, Gertie has played for the international celebration FinnFest, and large venues in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. A small documentary was made by the Finnish community in Minnesota when a musical collaboration was made between these two groups, showing similarities, learning from one another's styles, and sharing the bond of music. The strong friendship remains between Gertie, the Finn Hall Band, and her nordic friends in Minnesota and Michigan. FINN HALL Musicians include: RALPH TUTTILA on mandolin, DENNIS HALME on accordion, AL REKO on accordion, CHERYL PASCHKE on violin, and JOHANNA LORBACH on violin.
Gertie and the T.O. Boyz performed at different venues in the Twin Cities as well as at the History Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota with the Finn Hall Band.
Gertie and the Minnesota Connection
Gertie and the Michigan Connection
Gertie was invited to play up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior. There, Gertie shared Waila music at the Aura Jamboree as well as an evening concert in L'Anse, Michigan. Many of those attending were raised with nordic folk dance traditions which include schottische, massurka, polka, waltz at weekly community dances. These dancers excitedly embraced Gertie's music and found their traditional dances could be danced to these Tohono O'odham tunes.
While in Michigan Gertie was joined by RALPH TUTTILA on mandolin and two row accordion, ERIC PLATT on guitar and mandolin, LAURA SHILLING on violin, BOB HILTUNEN on percussion, OREN TIKKANEN on bass, and JAANA TUTTILA on nyckelharpa.
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