James Sangroniz and Pilar Sangroniz

Left: 2016, July - James playing for the San Inazio Basque Festival. 1984 - Pilar Sangroniz in San Francisco.

James and his sister Pilar Sangroniz have played in the past and continue to play for various Basque dance groups and helped the Jean Flesher Band get off the ground in its first years. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, their contribution to Basque culture has had an impact in Boise, Idaho and in Salt Lake City. Both of them play the txistu and tambourine. Pilar also knows how to play the piano and clarinet and James the trumpet.

James and Pilar’s father, Jaime Sangroniz, had an aunt who ran a boarding house in Salt Lake, the famous Landa/Hogar Hotel. He came to the American West to herd sheep. After James and Pilar were born the family moved to Salt Lake City. They grew up in the small but active Basque community of Salt Lake where they met Jean Flesher and created life-long friendships.

In the 1970s Delfina (Urresti) Sabala, a former founding member of the Oinkari Basque Dancers, was living in Salt Lake City. She stepped up and volunteered to teach Basque dances to the younger Basques in the Salt Lake City area. In 1974 the Utahko Triskalariak dance group was created. After Delfina left Salt Lake City to return to Boise, Pilar took the initiative and volunteered to be the teacher for the dancers. By the 1970s the Hogar Hotel had closed and there was no place for the Basques to gather.  Although the newly-established Basque club did not have a designated physical location for meeting, it provided a  reason for the Basques to gather and the dance group was a key, unifying factor for the club. There wasn’t an accordion player to play for the dance group, so Jean Flesher started learning and playing the accordion. James was the txistulari for the dancers in those days.  During those early days of the dance group, James and Pilar attended Basque festivals with Jean Flesher in Nevada and California.

James didn’t have any instructor to learn to play txistu. Relatives from the Basque Country brought him instruments and pamphlets to learn to play music. Both Pilar and James were self-taught txistu players.

After graduating from college at the University of Utah in 1983, James left Salt Lake City and moved to Boise, Idaho to work. For more than ten years James didn’t played at all. He found a place to stay in Boise with the Gipuzkoan Juan Zulaica, who was self-taught a tambourine player in the Basque Country before immigrating to USA. As James was involved with the Oinkaris he motivated Juan Zulaica to play with them, which after the dead of Domingo Ansotegui in 1984, he filled the place of tambourine player with Jimmy Jausoro. Zulaica taught to James how to play tambourine in Juan’s way.

In 1998, James started playing tambourine for the Boiseko txikitxuak, the younger group of dancers in Boise and later playing txistu for the Boiseko Gazteak the older dance group of kids before the Oinkaris. Under the influences of James playing txistu, he tells about Edu Sarria.

However Pilar decided to stay in Utah and became the main txistulari for the Utahko Triskalariak. She went to Basque Government program for young diaspora Basques, Gazte Mundu, where she improved her technique with tambourine. Pilars husband, Jay Shortsleeve, plays the drums, so he usually plays the drum for the Triskalariak with his wife.