UTRGV tuba-euphonium ensemble getting ready for Washington gig

EDINBURG — Preparations for one of the year’s biggest performance began last September for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble.

In just a few weeks, the group will be traveling to Washington to perform as the only college at the U.S. Army Band Tuba Euphonium Workshop.

With a mix of songs such as “Children of Sanchez” by Chuck Mangione and arranged by Miguel Montano; “Malagueña” by Ernesto Lecuona and arranged by Tom Seniff; and “La Virgen de Macarena” by Rafael Mendez and arranged by Kevin McKenzie, the ensemble hopes to represent the cultural mix of the Rio Grande Valley and the ability of instruments that are mistaken by many as a background instrument.

“Most of the music we are playing at this conference is not published arrangements,” UTRGV Professor Scott Roeder said. “They were either written specifically for this ensemble… it’s well-known music but it’s not music that you hear tuba-euphonium ensembles play that much because they are not readily available.”

Roeder founded the UTRGV Tuba and Euphonium ensemble in 2009 and they have been traveling the world since performing at international conferences in Austria, Indiana and here in Texas.

The UTRGV ensemble will be the only college performance at the workshop on Feb. 2, which is an annual event held in Fort Meyer, Virginia, home of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”

“It’s good for the university and the music department,” Roeder said. “Especially for perspective students that are interested in majoring in music… they hear about all this stuff and become interested. It’s good to draw people into the university to study music.”

This is the first big event of the spring for the ensemble, which will be quickly transitioning to two other conferences in the upcoming months including an international one being hosted at UTRGV from March 16 to 18, which will feature Latin-American artists.

For the students, these events bring exposure to high-caliber players and techniques that they don’t get to see every day, said Roeder, as well as an opportunity to showcase their talent and hard work.

“To hear what our instruments can actually do, a lot of students don’t know that our instruments could play that fast or that high,” said Michael Sandoval, 22, a music education student at UTRGV and tuba player in the ensemble.

Making a name for the Valley in college music is an opportunity to entice locals to become more involved in these types of events, the students said, and future generations who can get the exposure they received in college at an earlier age.

“Within the community I don’t think there’s that much of support for music in college,” said Ediel Ovalle, 21, euphonium player in the ensemble and music education major. “We are trying to work with the university to have high school students not pay for concert tickets just to have more of that exposure… You never know when you can actually help touch somebody’s heart who will be like ‘That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”