The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently announced that five UTEP students earned the group’s Outstanding Student Award in Arts and Humanities.
The University of Texas at El Paso’s Jacob J. Aun, Elijah I. Ontiveros, Juan P. Palacios, Isaac Ponce and Paul Reid were recognized for musical arts in the category of Group Performance. They will divide a $2,500 prize from the regents. Four of them are music education majors, the other, Aun, is a sociology major. Palacios is a senior and the others have junior class status.
The regents recognized student excellence in two music categories: Solo/Duet Performance and Group Performance. There was one winner in each category.
“To win one of these awards is truly a remarkable accomplishment,” wrote regents’ chairman Sara Martinez Tucker in an acknowledgement letter also signed by UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven.
The quintet trumpet ensemble won for their performance of “Voice of the Prophets,” an original piece composed for the group by UTEP alumnus Eddie Lewis.
The students said that the recognition was a welcome surprise that turned into a sense of pride and accomplishment. They got the news while participating in the National Trumpet Competition in Denton, Texas.
“It made me proud of the fact that as a group we achieved something this great by just going out and having fun doing what we love to do,” Palacios said.
Steve Wilson, DMA, chair of the Department of Music, said the University is proud of the students and their accomplishment. It is the first time that a music ensemble from an institution other than UT Austin has won in the group performance category.
“This was great and exciting news,” Wilson said. “This recognition is an example of our students’ level of talent and commitment, and of the fine teaching that can be found in the Department of Music’s wind and percussion section.”
Nominees go through a rigorous review at the campus level. The presidents of the UT institutions then forward the names to the UT System for consideration. An external review committee comprised of experts in musical arts evaluated the nominations based on several criteria such as excellent teamwork and musicianship.
Nancy Taylor, senior lecturer of music in trumpet, is the quintet’s teacher. She complimented their work ethic and ability to bring out the best in each other in the piece of music that incorporates Latin and Arabic rhythms.
“This is a very prestigious award within the UT System, but it also validates (the students) as musicians and shows them that they can compete nationally,” said Taylor, who got misty-eyed when speaking about her students.
The regents established the Outstanding Student Awards in Arts and Humanities in February 2012 to recognize student achievement in the musical arts, the visual arts, and creative writing. The specific area for recognition varies each year. The program is designed to enhance excellence in student performance, reward outstanding students, stimulate the arts and humanities, and promote continuous quality in education.
The last UTEP student to earn the award was Heather Mawson in 2016. She was selected for her creativity and versatility in the three-dimensional art category. That year the regents honored students in the visual arts.
The quintet will be recognized at a regents’ meeting on Monday, April 30, 2018, in Houston.