Encanto’s Germaine Franco thanks El Paso, mom at the Plaza Classic Film Festival

Germaine Franco, who scored the Disney hit “Encanto,” expressed her gratitude for her upbringing in El Paso for her early musical influences, and her mother Alicia Franco for her support Saturday night at the Plaza Theater.

Franco, who took part in a Q&A for the Plaza Classic Film Festival, was warm and humbled as she talked about her journey working on hit Disney movies including “Bolt” and “Coco.” She co-wrote and produced five of Coco’s six original songs with co-producer, Adrian Molina, including “Un Poco Loco” and “Proud Corazon.”

She is the first Latina to score an animated Disney film and the first person of color to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Score.

“All of my music teachers, and Mr. Al Mendez, they inspired me to keep practicing to make music and so all my roots of my entire musical career start here in El Paso. And I want to thank El Paso and El Paso Independent School District for having a great music program,” she told film festival director Doug Pullen.

Franco said she was a proud Rocket, a student at Irvin High School, and she also recalled her middle school days at Canyon Hills Middle School, rolling her instruments up and down on a skateboard. According to her mother, she says, she connected to music at a very young age, even tapping her sister’s piano keys long before any formal training.

She mentioned the names of well-known El Paso musicians and teachers, including Jaime Olivas and Kenneth Capshaw and playing with the El Paso Youth Symphony at the University of Texas at El Paso.

“I think if I had been raised in Ohio, I might not have been able to deliver for ‘Coco’ and ‘Encanto’. But growing up here and going to Juárez and having these great experiences has been awesome. It shaped me as a musician, so I feel so happy that you’re all here tonight and I feel such love for El Paso and I’m grateful for this historic city,” she said.

Franco said she grew up loving different types of music, from jazz to mariachi, Veracruz music, and classical music like Bach.

El Paso native Germaine Franco, who scored "Encanto" took part in a Q&A on Saturday at the Plaza Theater.  Doug Pullen, director of the Plaza Classic Film Festival, presented him with a special award from the Plaza Classic Film Festival.

“A lot of funk too, because we had a drum set in Irvin, and thanks to Mr. Olivas not walking us everywhere, we were going in the middle. And there were kids from Fort Bliss and that area, so the half the drums were black, and half were Mexican and we jammed for hours every day,” she said. “And it was funny because on one of the movies I did called ‘Little’… (someone asked) ‘how did you get funky’ – well, drumline.”

Franco said she had to speak to Lin-Manuel Miranda on the phone to see if she would have the opportunity for “Encanto”, and they found a connection through music and Texas.

“And it turns out that Lin has Texas roots on her mother’s side as well. So we talked about salsa music and our love for Latin music,” she said.

Even though the story of Familia Madrigal is set in Colombia, it was not difficult for Franco to incorporate these rhythms and sounds into his score. She explained to Pullen how all Latin music is related in some way, even with instruments with different names, made from different materials and sounds in different cultures.

“I always liked a cumbia, so it was my gateway to Colombian music and also because Latin music is linked. In Mexico and the Caribbean, all the musicians shared. Cuban musicians went to Mexico Mexican musicians used to go to From Cuba to Colombia I don’t know if you know this but they actually have mariachi music in Colombia.

Towards the end of the evening, Franco got emotional talking about her mother and how she enjoyed her driving her to her lessons when she was little. And being able to take him to the Oscars was a dream for her and a way to show him how much she loves him. Franco’s mom was applauded by the audience, thanks to her daughter’s heartfelt words.

She received the Plaza Classic Award with the inscription “El Paso Proud”. The Plaza Classic Film Festival continues until August 7.

After:Latino cultural icon Rita Moreno attends the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso

María Cortés González can be reached at 915-546-6150; [email protected]; @EPTMaria on Twitter.

Gerald R. Schneider