HHS band takes state stage

HARLINGEN — It’s all about the kids.

That’s how Ronnie Rios sees it. The Harlingen High School band director says his jazz band has done well because the young musicians are an exceptional group of students.

“I think that I’m one of the luckiest teachers in the world to have the greatest students on the planet,” Rios said.

The HHS Jazz Ensemble has been invited to perform at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention on Feb. 10 in San Antonio. TMEA has also named the ensemble as one of the TMEA State Jazz Champs.

“It’s an honor that our school district is going to be represented at this level,” Rios said. “I feel excited and at the same time I feel a tiny bit of pressure.”

Some of the pressure comes from the prospect of world-renowned Cuban jazz musician Arturo Sandoval performing with the HHS Jazz Ensemble.

“I called him,” Rios said. “I’m kind of an ambitious person so I thought I’d reach out further.”

Sandoval is a jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer who has won 10 Grammys. He is described as a protégé of the late Dizzy Gillespie, one of the first musicians to bring Latin tunes into American jazz. He was given political asylum in 1990 and is now a U.S. citizen.

Rios expressed confidence his jazz musicians are up to the task.

“They understand the art of getting the music tight and playing with a good style,” he said.

He said the HHS Jazz Ensemble has an exceptional sound because the musicians can get into the “groove.”

“It’s like the beat of a song, the rhythm,” he said. “There’s a beat with every song. It could be a Latin groove or swing band.”

Rios has been a band director in Harlingen for more than 20 years. Needless to say, he’s refined his style somewhat over time.

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