Scores of Socorro Independent School District fine arts students excelled recently in All-Region and All-Area auditions for jazz band, choir, mariachi, orchestra, and dance with many of them advancing to the next level of competition and five students winning All-State honors.
After the area auditions for jazz band, mariachi, and orchestra Nov. 14 and 15, five SISD music students have been selected for the Texas Music Educators Association All-State Ensembles. They will perform at the annual TMEA convention in February, which will be conducted virtually this school year.
Sixteen SISD jazz musicians earned All-Region honors and nine of those students advanced to compete at the All-Area level. After the all-area audition, trumpet player Santana Rojas from Pebble Hills High School was chosen for the All-State ensemble.
After their auditions, El Dorado High School violinist Sahid Palacios and Americas High School cello player Ricardo Chacon were selected for the All-State orchestra ensemble.
This was the first year that mariachi students could audition for an All-State Mariachi Ensemble. Only 17 slots were available at the All-Region level, which SISD students claimed 13 of and 14 students auditioned at the area competition to qualify for state. Two Socorro High School violinists Jennifer Betancourt and Jocelyn Betancourt were chosen for the coveted spots in the All-State mariachi ensemble.
“It’s really great that Socorro ISD has such a high representation among the students who’ll move on to the next level of competition,” said Jose Rios, Americas High School mariachi teacher.
Rios said the pandemic added another level of difficulty to the competition, which is already a challenging audition. Helping his students navigate the virtual auditions was important to keep them on track and inspired during this difficult school year, he said.
“It’s very refreshing to know we are all here to help each other as we navigate a lot of the same feelings about everything going on,” Rios said. “We just took it one step at a time, and I believe we came out very successful.”
Choir director Joe Estala at Pebble Hills High School agreed that virtual learning has been a new challenge, but he was confident that his students were going to be successful because of the skills they had already acquired.
In choir, 58 SISD students earned All-Region spots and 35 of the singers have advanced to Pre-Area auditions.
“Their success at All-Region tells me that even when we feel like we’re not reaching them, they are absorbing so much knowledge and using what they’ve been taught,” Estala said. “As teachers we need to have faith in our students because though this can be a discouraging time, when you see those little bits of success in students it is because of what we taught them. We as teachers can be confident in knowing that we are doing our job right even when we are navigating it through a virtual world.”
SISD dance students and teachers are also on a path to great success as the district named six students as part of the first-ever All-State dance cohort. Junior and senior students were selected through a rigorous audition process to earn the honor of representing their schools and the district at the Texas Dance Educators Association All-State Dance Convention in the spring.
Students who are a part of SISD dance programs at the high schools submitted their audition videos for several judges to select representatives for the new competition.
“The students were very excited for the opportunity, but also very nervous to have teachers other than their own judging and critiquing them,” said El Dorado High School dance instructor and a Fine Arts Department chair Jennifer Romero. “Personally, my student (who was selected) expressed how excited and relieved she was.”
Romero said it took a lot of communication and working together as a team among all the dance teachers to offer students the opportunity to represent the district through the auditions. The new all-state competition will open the doors for dance students to have access to scholarships and master classes, she said.
While Fine Arts students and staff in all disciplines have had to adjust this school year, it has not deterred them from working hard to refine their crafts and compete to the best of their abilities, said SISD Fine Arts director Armando Martinez
“These achievements show that we are a district that is united because we put our students first,” Martinez said. “It is a testament to our teachers’ passion and their will not to give up. They have helped these students achieve this success.”