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Nearly 80 DVHS band students compete in UIL Solo and Ensemble, 53 advance to state

Nearly 80 DVHS band students compete in UIL Solo and Ensemble, 53 advance to state
Christian Aleman-Rodriguez

A record number of Del Valle High School musicians attended the regional UIL Solo and Ensemble competition recently, and a record number of them achieved top scores on their performances, securing a spot in the state competition. 

Nearly 80 students attended the competition out of the total 129 in the high school band program. Out of those who competed, 65 received medals and 53 advanced to the state competition that will be held around Memorial Day in May. 

“Extremely proud. This is the largest number that we've ever taken to solo and ensemble and the largest number that's ever advanced. So yeah, we're extremely proud of them,” said Director of Bands Tom Guyton. 

The success of the students at the competition has been months in the making as ensembles and soloists rehearsed for hours and participated in a mock competition held by the music program. Senior percussionist Samaria Amaro is one of the students in an ensemble advancing to the state competition.

“We worked really hard on it, it was a big piece,” said Samaria. “And Miss Z,  she said that we could do it so we wanted to make her proud. We practiced really hard for it and we did really well and we got ones.”

A one is the top rating a solo or ensemble can receive. Students in an ensemble who perform a Class 1 piece from the UIL Prescribed Music List and receive a one advance to the state competition. 

“We stayed after school, like every Friday, to practice our ensemble and work out all of the small kinks, the minor mistakes, notes and rhythms and things like that and dynamics so we could get ones. And that's what we did,” said senior clarinet player Curtis Griffin, a member of an ensemble advancing to state.

DHVS Assistant Band Director Mary Zapchenk helped Samaria and the ensemble pick out their piece and prepare. She said she knew the ensemble would qualify for state. 

“I’m very excited. Yeah, I knew the ensembles would [make it to state]. That's for sure,” Mary said. 

This was the third year Samaria and Curtis participated in the competition. Tom, who has helped cultivate their skills, called their growth as musicians through the years remarkable. 

“To see both of those guys grow from their freshman year to the senior, or any of the students, is remarkable. It really is. To see that growth over time because the ensemble is really all about them,” Tom said. 

As students like Samaria and Curtis prepare for the state competition, Tom said participating in events like this is important for young musicians, whether they compete to advance or not. 

“I think it builds self-confidence and self-awareness. You have to be aware of what you're doing and how it fits into the ensemble. With it being such a small group, you can't hide, so it builds your confidence,” he said. 

Apart from the solo and ensemble competition, both seniors expressed their passion for music and being part of a group of students who share the same interest they do. 

“It's like a second home. You do really develop a family here, and just like with a normal family, everybody has their ups and downs,” Curtis said. “There are arguments and there are fights and stuff, but we all end up coming together in the end and we're bonded together.”

DVHS Band students pose together
Curtis Griffin, a senior, plays the clarinet
Samaria Amaro, a senior, plays her instrument
Curtis Griffin and Samaria Amaro are going to the state solo and ensemble competition