By Natalie Taylor
Rene Gignac has music in the bones. It’s no wonder; she remembers as a child how her mother would play the piano and sing. When Rene was twelve she picked up the guitar and taught herself how to play. She was born in Alabama where her Canadian parents were living at the time. She went off to college at nineteen, but after one year of studies decided to quit and make her living as a guitarist. After spending time in Southern Florida playing guitar for several years, she decided to go back to college. She studied accounting at UCLA, but also did a music immersion program at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, concentrating on guitar. After completing her studies she moved to New Orleans where a sister was living, but also because it was a great setting for a musician. She got a steady gig at Café Negril—a prime spot in the Marigny district and played with a well-known band: Thirty by Ninety (named for the latitude and longitude of New Orleans). In 2009 they won second prize in the regional Battle of the Blues competition, a major accomplishment.
Rene spent thirty years in the city on the Bayou, twenty of them as a professional musician. Then she worked for a major firm doing their accounting. But things changed in a major way because of a series of painful, personal losses.
The first, was a break-up of a long-term relationship. Then followed several deaths in the family, with the final blow being the loss of her mother and father. An acquaintance in New Orleans had a home in San Miguel de Allende and told Rene about the beauty of the city, and particularly its great musical scene. It sounded enticing and a respite from the heartbreaks she was dealing with. She decided to come for a visit in late 2020. The city charmed her immediately—it was welcoming, the musical scene was indeed rich, and there was a certain vibe that was hard to describe—the pull was undeniable, San Miguel had captured her heart. Most importantly, Rene realized that she could leave her pain behind and start life afresh in a new setting, a new land. She went back to the US, and a few months later, in February of 2021, she moved to San Miguel for good.
Rene considers herself semi-retired and is now finding time to return to her music. She is actively “woodshedding,” practicing her guitar on a regular basis. She is making connections with other musicians in the city, and “doin’ the best she can.” Rene has also become involved in volunteer work, lending her accounting expertise to one of the NGOs in town. Slowly she is recovering from the losses she experienced, and feels that San Miguel is a good place for new beginnings. Perhaps one of these days, when we finally pull out of the pandemic, you will run across Rene playing the blues on her guitar at one of the city’s venues.
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