Anyone who has had the opportunity to experience a group of young student musicians bring to life a musical set on stage, knows the complex mix of technical and creative skills required to make that magic happen. In fact, a one to two hour musical exhibition typically calls for months of disciplined preparation and dedication. Students must masterfully juggle schoolwork and family life, all while squeezing in the necessary time to practice and fine-tune their musical techniques and abilities.
It is no secret that art and music programs are at the top of the chopping board when it comes to budget cuts in schools because the life-relevant lessons taking place for students involved in these activities cannot be quantitatively measured using sterile, standardized tests. Yet these kids are consistently refining their time-management and organizational skills; boosting their team-building and social skills; learning about perseverance, responsibility and discipline; sharpening their concentration, eye-hand coordination, mathematical, reading and comprehension skills; elevating their confidence through public performances; fostering a sense of healthy self expression; and connecting to a long and rich cultural history.
In this very special feature of Art Motif Magazine, we are proud to showcase a few of the young musicians pulling off that amazing feat through the Superior with Distinction-rated Nogales High School Apache Jazz Band led by Director of Bands Mrs. Lisa Sargeant-Myers in Nogales, AZ. Please enjoy our interviews with Chris Robles, David Moore, Florentina Siqueiros, Giuseppe Prestini, Luis Centeno and Maya Lopez below.
(Photos and videos by Alicia E. Barrón unless otherwise noted.)
Instrument: Upright Bass
How old were you when you began playing? I began to sing when I was 9 and to play the bass when I was 11.
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? My motivation came from my wanting to learn something new that I could use forever and being able learn another art besides drawing.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? I love the vast amounts of ways to express yourself when playing a song and/or solo.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? I really enjoy listening to all genres, but the artists that I usually find myself listening to are Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Billy Joel, and Bruno Mars.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? I can’t decide whether my favorite experience was performing in the Washington D.C. Memorial Day Parade, in the Generation Jazz Festival, or at Disneyland. I learned a lot in all of those events.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? The most challenging part would have to be setting a good song list because there are plenty of amazing songs and we need to choose such a few amount to perform.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? My ultimate dream is to be able to make others smile through my music and to be able to inspire all generations to give music a shot.
Instrument: Tenor Saxophone
How old were you when you began playing? 10
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? I started playing because my Uncle Bobby played saxophone and because most kids played an instrument during elementary school.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? The thing about jazz that I love the most is the musical freedom that the genre has to offer. In jazz, you don’t need to worry about playing a song exactly as recorded or someone getting upset because you played their solo or song because everyone expects you to play what you feel sounds best.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? The music I listen to can change completely on a weekly basis, but the music I always tend to gravitate towards is rock, alternative, jazz and punk. Other than that, my favorite musician overall is Sonny Rollins, a very talented tenor sax player.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? My favorite music experience so far would have to be during my Freshman year when my high school jazz band performed at state competitions and we received a Superior with Distinction. The band played so well and we all worked so hard that everything we did to prepare for that day was worth it.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? The most challenging thing for me is trying to stay motivated when I hear other people who are so much better than me.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? My ultimate dream as a musician is to travel around the world playing the music I love while being paid enough to live well.
Instruments: Trumpet, Ukulele, Melodica
How old were you when you began playing? I was around 10 or 11 when I started playing.
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? My family made me want to learn music. Music has always been a big part of my family; my dad plays piano and my sister plays flute and violin.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? Mostly the style and relaxed feel of jazz. Other music has strict rules you have to follow. Jazz, however, is very relaxed—you can do anything and more often than not it’ll sound impressive.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? I enjoy many genres of music including mariachi, jazz, pop, etc. As for specific musicians, I enjoy Mariachi Vargas, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? My favorite experience in music so far has been the first time I went to NAU Jazz Festival. We got a Superior and it felt amazing that we managed to get such a pristine award.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? I find the new techniques that I have to learn for jazz to be difficult. Before joining jazz band, I played classical symphony-type music. Playing jazz, I’ve had to learn various techniques that I wasn’t familiar with including “a slide”, vibrato and using a plunger.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? My ultimate dream as a musician is to write a song at some point in my life.
Instruments: Alto, Tenor, Soprano, and Baritone Saxophone, Piano
How old were you when you began playing? I began playing the piano at 3 years old and the saxophone at about 10.
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? My parents put me in private piano classes at a very young age and, through there, I learned the basics of music and I began performing in recitals. In 5th grade, I was introduced to band instruments and had the opportunity to choose one to learn to play it. I chose the saxophone because my father had played it before and his business revolved around that instrument. It was the instrument that appealed to me the most. I fell in love with the saxophone and advanced through it for a couple of years. Then in 7th grade, I was introduced to the Tucson Jazz Institute and that’s where I learned about jazz. I immediately loved it and began to really advance as a musician and in my playing skills.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? Jazz is a very different type of music when compared to everything else. In jazz you can actually express yourself. There are no rules. Well, yes, there are rules in terms of playing songs but not when it comes to your own interpretation and style and how you move and feel the music. The ability to play solos and really show what you can do is amazing. Jazz really pushes you to do more for yourself. It’s a music that inspires.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? I have adapted to listening to all kinds of music genres but my favorite will always be jazz. I will always love it and listening to it is a whole new experience when you know how to play it. In terms of musicians, I love listening to jazz musicians such as Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, and Duke Ellington.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? My favorite musical experience has, by far, been my trip to New York City to compete in the Essentially Ellington Competition at the Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. I had the opportunity to go with the band I am part of at the Tucson Jazz Institute and only 15 bands out of thousands are chosen to compete. It was an amazing experience and we got to work with the highest qualified players in the world.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? The most challenging thing about being in band is managing the time. It is hard to play and advance in your instrument while at the same time advancing in school, especially when the current school system does not have high expectations of their music programs. Although it can be done effectively, it is for sure a challenge.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? My ultimate goal is to never stop advancing as a musician and never stop improving my musical skills throughout life. I do not necessarily expect to achieve a career in music but I never want to stop playing my instrument and, in fact, I hope to learn to play more instruments. Music and jazz are beautiful things that most definitely give us and teach us many new skills and abilities which can be used throughout life.
Instruments: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor and Baritone Saxophone, Piano, Ocarina
How old were you when you began playing? I began playing clarinet at the age of 10. I have been playing since 5th grade, making it a total of 7 years. (I didn’t play in 6th grade.)
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? At first I played just so I could get out of class in elementary school. Soon, in middle school, I found 3 things that kept me going: the competition for chair placement/audition; the joy of playing whatever I liked; and the feeling of adrenaline from soloing.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? One of the things I love about jazz is that it is expressive. It allows so many ways of interpretation. Then there is a large amount of jazz genres. I enjoy them all but, mainly, I enjoy jazz songs with clarinet. I adore how flexible the clarinet is when it comes to jazz.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? I usually listen to jazz, symphonies/orchestra, and also pop songs.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? There are too many experiences to list them all. Some of the highlights would have to be the people whom I have met, the solos, and the enjoyment of any competition—whether it’s jazz or marching competitions. Especially the big trips such as the NAU Jazz Festival, the Washington D.C Memorial Parade, and the Disneyland trip.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? One of the most difficult things in music for me is being consistent. Being a good musician requires practicing everyday. It’s similar to working out physically for a sport. In order for improvements to appear, you must workout everyday.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? I have two dreams as a musician right now. The main one is to be a Disney Park Musician; to be able to add to the magic that music always provides during a Disney Park trip. My second dream is to become a music teacher and, hopefully, inspire students to improve themselves as people, and help them strive for their dreams, whether it’s a music career or any career that they feel passionate about.
Meredith Maya Lopez
How old were you when you began playing? I was in 5th grade (11 years old) when I began playing clarinet, and then began playing the trombone in 8th grade(14 years old).
What got you started in music (who/what motivated you to begin playing)? All the members of my family before me knew how to play an instrument, mostly guitar, and I was always fascinated with the idea of making music. I really enjoy playing.
What is it about jazz music in particular that you enjoy most? What I enjoy the most about jazz music is that it’s so diverse and everyone can take a moment in the spotlight. Everyone is equally important and I love the idea of that.
What music/musicians (any genre) do you enjoy listening to? I am very open to any music genre. I don’t really have a preference, as long as I enjoy the beat and lyrics, I’ll listen to it on repeat in my playlist.
What has been your favorite experience in music so far? So far my favorite experience in music is seeing how people who don’t have anything in common, other than their love for music, come together to make a beautiful melody with their individual instruments. I love that music can create such strong family-like bonds between its members.
What do you find most challenging about being in band/playing music? The most challenging part of being in band is blending in with other members, both socially and musically.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician? My ultimate dream as a musician is to play in an expert level band and to sound as beautiful and smooth as one.
A very special thanks to Mrs. Lisa Sargeant-Myers and the entire NHS Apache Jazz Band including:
Jose Delgado III, Jenifer Fong-Kee, Karla Montoya, Monica Navarro, Giuseppe Prestini, and Jesus Gil-Ramirez
Joselyn Estrella, Evelyn Molina, and David Moore III
Aaron Aguirre and Luis Centeno
Enrique Brown-Chanez, Octavio Leon, Jacob Molera, Carlos Rangel, Florentina Siqueiros, Edgar Tarea, and Krizia Trejo
Rodolfo Buelna, Pablo Centeno, Maya Lopez, Damian Moreno, and Roberto Naff
Luis Chavarría, Ian Milton, and Adriel Vidales-Miranda
Chris Robles and Susette Murillo
Adan Castro, Gonzalo Gerardo, Abraham Hernandez, and Isaac Olivas