Smooth jazz sounds flow from Connor Wilson’s bass trombone effortlessly like a pro with more than just two years experience under his belt.
The humble musician took first chair bass trombone at the Texas Music Educators Association’s All-State competition this fall – earning a top spot on the state’s Jazz Ensemble 1 and making him the top student bass trombonist in Texas.
“I’m really proud of myself,” he said, his bass trombone comfortably at his side. “I got fourth chair last year and I was on the second ensemble, so I think it was really cool to get in the top ensemble this year.”
Coronado band director Mark Saenz calls Wilson’s accomplishment “a big deal.”
“It shows a lot of discipline to try to get those eight tubes to the level that they need to be and a lot of creativity,” Saenz said. “He had to create an improvised solo for this particularly audition process. It shows the skills that he’s developed and his talent.”
The junior credits his Coronado band peers for pushing him to practice and hone his craft.
“Being around all these other players that are so talented has made me a better player,” Wilson said. “I think had I not gone here, I wouldn’t be in a position that I am today.”
Wilson’s talent and accomplishments also inspire his band mates.
“When you have a student like Connor with the right mix of talent and attitude, it really impacts the other students around here,” Saenz said. “They hear how well he’s playing and it makes them better and inspires them to practice and make themselves work on improving their skills.”
Wilson began his band career in sixth grade playing the tuba, then moved on to trombone in seventh grade. He turned to bass trombone as a Coronado freshman – further developing and fueling his passion for jazz.
“I like the way that you can kind of just make your own melodies off of a melody that someone else created 30 years earlier,” he said. “I just think it’s really cool.”
Wilson also enjoys the mood-lifting effect playing the trombone gives him.
“It’s a real stress reliever,” he said. “If I’m sad or something, I’ll play my trombone and feel better. I really enjoy just making music – especially when it sounds really good. It’s a kind of a sense of accomplishment.”
His passion and love for brass instruments might be directly related to his genes. His parents, Steve and Elisa Wilson, are both UTEP fine arts professors. Dad Steve is an accomplished trombonist, while mom Elisa is a professor of choral music and voice.
“Connor has a particular strong family music background,” Saenz said. “They’re supported him from day one. They’ve given him the room to grow and have supported him in whatever direction that it takes him.”
His pure talent, dedication and a little DNA give the trombonist the elements necessary for success at the state level and among his peers.
“Connor is just such a great player as far as the jazz element is concerned. But on top of that, he’s also a wonderful classical tubist,” Saenz said. “He’s just a wonderful student and an inspiration for the kids around here.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD
Staff Report December 12, 2017NewsComments Off on Video: Coronado, Franklin Set Aside Rivalry to Support ‘Holiday Blessings Drive’
Every year Coronado and Franklin high schools set aside their competitive spirit, coming together to collect toys, blankets and clothing items for an EPISD elementary school.
Student council members from both schools started the Holiday Blessings Drive four years ago at Zavala Elementary, picking a different school each year to visit. This year the students gathered items for the 310 students at Hawkins Elementary School.
“This is a great project because it brings the schools together for a big and challenging project. It’s a good growth experience,” said Coronado student activities manager Kelly Groves. “They are so giving of their time, and they are so happy to do it. I could not be more proud of the kind of young people that we are producing.”
Coronado junior and StuCo president Nicole Plesant has participated in the project the last three years. She greeted each student with gusto, making sure they each took a pledge not to open the gifts until the 25th.
“It is the best feeling seeing the kids’ reactions. It’s such a heartwarming feeling. It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “We aware that we are a blessed group of kids and this is something we can do to give back to the community and make a difference.”
The high-schoolers welcomed each grade level into the library, where stacks of boxes awaited each student.
“It’s been a really positive experience getting to help these students and bring a smile to their face,” Franklin sophomore Michael Fallon said. “I think it’s a great way to show that we care. It’s a common misconception that teens are self-centered, but it’s nice to help people that are less fortunate.”
This is the first year the sophomore participates in the event. He was impressed by the amount of planning involved in the project but above all the camaraderie between the schools.
“Coronado and Franklin came together on Saturday, and we were at the school for over six hours wrapping gifts nonstop,” he said. “No one complained. We just kept going because we all had the same goal in mind.”
Students at Hawkins said they were happy and grateful to receive the gifts.
“I felt loved because we didn’t ask for anything and the high schools kids gave so much,” said fifth-grader Rene de la Llave. “Not all schools do this, but Coronado and Franklin really made us feel special. Some people got big boxes but it doesn’t matter because they took their time to make us feel loved.”
Student Council students pick an elementary at the beginning of the school year, meeting with the principal and counselor to coordinate the project. The elementary in turn is responsible for providing students’ clothing and shoe sizes, as well as what the students have asked for on their holiday wish list.
“I’m really humbled and beyond blessed that our school was chosen for this project because now we know our kids are going to have a really great Christmas,” principal Adriana Ruiz said. “I think it’s reflective of our District that we want to help our kids beyond academics and work on their social emotional wellbeing as well.”
Author: Alicia Chumley / Photos by Leonel Monroy / Video by Angel Dominguez – EPISD
Staff Report July 17, 2017EventsComments Off on EPISD Fine Arts’ ‘My Fair Lady’ will Keep You Dancing All Night
EPISD’s fine arts talent — both teachers and high school students — join together this summer to stage the annual summer musical. “My Fair Lady” runs Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Ross Capshaw Theater at Coronado High School.
“My Fair Lady” is a musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story, circa 1912 London, follows Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor and phonetician Henry Higgins to improve class status by perfecting a more proper British accent.
“It’s so exciting to see how Eliza transformers herself after she meets Higgins,” said Alejandra Sandoval of her character Eliza. “She wants to improve herself and become a lady.”
Sandoval watched YouTube videos and movies to perfect both the cockney accent and eventually Eliza’s more refined British accent.
“You have to do that transition and it has to be obvious,” said Sandoval, a recent Franklin graduate. “Even in the first two songs it is with that strong annoying cockney, nasally sound and at the end you get to hear that the songs sound much better.”
Franklin High 2017 grad Dario Vazquez plays male lead Henry Higgins. He’s enjoyed bringing Higgins to life on stage and showing the evolution of both his and Sandoval’s characters.
“I’m very egotistical, very full of myself but throughout the story you see me change and find myself caring for this women even though I detest women and don’t want them in my life,” he said. “It’s an old show but an awesome show.”
Vasquez and Sandoval combine their talents with other high school art, drama, choir, orchestra and dance students to bring “My Fair Lady” to life.
“We are trying to teach the kids to do a full musical production as opposed to just scenes like they do at their campuses,” said Reuben Reza, general director. “Students in drama who have never been in choir are learning to sing and choir students who have never been in drama are learning to act and so on with the dancing. We want our students to have a well-rounded education in fine arts.”
Burges High theater teacher Fernie Arana calls the more than 25-year-old summer production the oldest high school musical camp in Texas.
“It’s free to students which is unheard of,” he said, explaining that similar camps costs students hundreds of dollars. “Kids learn everything from tech to how to weld, build, paint, dance, act and sing – all these things to help tell this beautiful story you see on stage.”
Tickets for the show are $5 and available prior to each show time.
Staff Report May 21, 2017NewsComments Off on Video+Story: El Paso ISD Students Present TED Ed Talks
Several EPISD campuses delved into the TED-Ed Clubs this school year, exploring and learning to express their passion through talks. The campuses came together last week for a district-wide TED-Ed Club talk and community presentation at CCTE.
“TED-Ed helps kids develop their confidence in speaking to an audience, develop their ideas and express their ideas,” said Karen Blaine, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer. “This not only prepares for skills they will need in the future, it gives them a place at school to express their passions.”
Campus participating in the program are: Barron, Cielo Vista, Coldwell, Guerrero, Mesita, Newman and Tom Lea elementary schools; Armendariz, Lincoln, Morehead and Richardson middle schools; Coronado High School and Silva Health Magnet.
“It’s really fun,” said Mathew Hernandez, a Schuster 5th grader. “I think it’s a great idea. You get to express what you feel with the world.”
The talks included a wide variety of topics including bullying, body image, post traumatic stress disorder and being a good friend.
“I think this is very important because it teaches them that if they have a great idea, their voice matters, too,” said Schuster teacher Stormy Daniels.
Collaboration is key to TED-Ed Club talks. In TED-Ed Clubs, students work together to discuss and celebrate creative ideas. Club leaders receive TED-Ed’s flexible Clubs curriculum to guide their school’s club and to help inspire tomorrow’s TED speakers and leaders.
“I may have a great idea but not speak very well and might need a friend help me articulate it better or make my presentation using technology,” Daniels said. My role has been to guide them and help them with the opportunity. It’s their ideas, they research and the parts they liked they went for.”
District officials and the area TED Ed representative are encouraged by the students’ collaborations and talks. The clubs, which began in EPISD at the beginning of the school year, is open to any campus interested in participating.
“We’re pleased with the response and how the clubs have taken off in such a short time,” Blaine said.
Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is no easy feat, but Coronado High School senior Judah Lesser has already done it … twice.
Just this month, the Journal of Mathematics Education published his second article, titled “Internship Experience in an Educational Technology Laboratory: Autoethnography of an Eighth-Grade Student-Researcher.”
The article focuses on Lesser’s volunteer internship experience in a research laboratory at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“My article recounts in detail my experience at Dr. Daniel Tillman’s lab,” Lesser said. “A student’s perspective like mine is valuable to an educator like Dr. Tillman when exploring how to better engage children in learning. I am very proud and thankful that I have been able to publish two articles as a high school student, especially when one was a sole author, and the other was with three other authors, all of whom are professors with PhDs.”
Lesser assisted Tillman, assistant professor of educational technology, at the university’s Educational Technology Research Lab. Tillman, along with two other two UTEP professors, contributed to Lesser’s article in the journal.
“I mostly learned how to operate the lab’s 3-D printers and devised methods to create simple musical instruments with and without the 3-D printers according to Dr. Tillman’s project,” Lesser said. “During the summer, I helped facilitate a summer camp at the lab. My part was to teach the campers how to design objects for 3-D printing.”
The experience helped further fuel the senior’s interest in STEM-related careers, especially anything related to materials engineering. He is currently working as volunteer at UTEP’s W. M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation, where he meaningfully applies his Coronado coursework in mathematics, physics, chemistry and robotics.
“I help other students with their projects, but also pursue my own, the largest of which has been the design of a versatile 3-D printer frame from scratch, which is currently being built,” Lesser said. “I am glad I am getting so much hands-on experience at a college level in design and fabrication. The Keck Center has solidified my desire to study materials engineering in college.”
Lesser’s previous scholarly article was published in the Sprint/Summer 2015 issue Texas Mathematics Teacher and was titled “Exploring Mobius Strip and Other Loops.”
Four T-Birds are soaring a little higher after winning the state 6A UIL Spelling and Vocabulary competition – a first for any El Paso high school.
“The competition at state is really difficult,” Coach Brain Keen said. “This is only the second time we have sent a team from Coronado to compete at state, and they did really, really well. It’s amazing.”
The team is made up of seniors Abigail Spitzer and Luke Minton, as well as freshmen students Sonali Patel and Kareena Shokar. The Coronado team placed first after tallying the top three individual scores on the team. Spitzer and Shokar placed second and sixth, respectively.
“The competition was very difficult. It taught me about hard work and determination,” Shokar said.
The former Hornedo Middle School student is thankful for the teachers that have helped her along the way.
“I feel the teacher foundation is strong,” Shokar said. “I have always been encouraged to try my hardest and that fueled my want to study.”
The UIL competition is comprised of three different parts, which include a proofreading section, hand-written spelling of 70 words pronounced aloud to contestants and a final tiebreaker section of 20 additional pronounced words.
To prepare, students study a “Word Power” list of 1,500 words that changes every year. The Coronado team has been practicing together once a week, as well as individually, since January. They study not only the UIL list, but also other spelling lists available online to fine-tune their skills.
Spitzer, who has competed in the UIL competition all four years of high school, made it to state her freshman year. Making it to state is not an easy feat, and she was ecstatic to make it back to state her senior year.
“I was really excited. I thought it was a great honor to be able to do so well my senior year and placing high,” Spitzer said.
Being part of the competition throughout her high-school career has helped her improve in other classes, not just English.
“One of the more valuable things you learn is how it helps out in science,” Spitzer said. “Spelling requires you learn a lot of Latin and Greek words, which come up a lot in biology and physics.”
Minton has also competed all four years and is happy to end the year strong. He credits the competition with helping improve his studying habits and overall academic standing.
“It’s definitely taught me to study a lot of material in a short amount of time and maximize the efficiency of my schedule,” Minton said. “UIL is a good opportunity for high-school students to explore their academic interests. It’s been a beneficial part of my high-school experience.”
Staff Report April 5, 2016Crime, NewsComments Off on Three Coronado High Students Struck by Pellets while Running; EPISD PD Has ‘Person of Interest’
El Paso Independent School District Police Services officers are asking the public for any information involving the pellet gun incident that targeted three Coronado High School students who were running around the school on Monday afternoon.
EPISD Police said three Coronado students were running on the 6500 block Cloudview Drive directly behind the CHS campus after school when a car passed them and then made a U-turn. Upon the second pass, the male driver of the car fired a burst of pellets toward the students.
One student was hit several times in the back. Another was grazed by a pellet on the arm. The third student did not receive any injuries. The students did not require medical attention, but the pellet did leave markings on their bodies.
Late Tuesday afternoon, EPISD officials said they had received information regarding a ‘person of interest’ in this case, but would not comment further, due to the ongoing investigation.
Witnesses said the shots came from a male suspect in a small four-door white car with tinted windows. Students could give no further description of the suspect or the car.
Police are looking for any additional information that could lead to the identification of the suspect.
Anyone with information involving this incident is asked to call the EPISD Police Services Department at (915) 230-2525.