Harlingen South band taking high marks

HARLINGEN — They’re competing today with wind ensembles, but the salsa players are pretty psyched about their performances as Latin artists.

“It’s very energizing and it’s awesome,” said Michael Garza, 17, who plays bass guitar for the Harlingen High School South Salsa Group.

Many of Harlingen South’s musicians are competing this week in UIL competitions, including many of the salsa players who also play in wind ensemble.

Michael, like many fellow musicians in the 14-student band, appreciates the more liberating quality of salsa music. The specific reliance on musical notation is somewhat more relaxed.

“You can create,” said Michael, a junior. “You can play what you feel.”

The salsa group is finishing up its second year, and Assistant Band Director Raúl Liendo is pleased.

“I think the group is a little better,” Liendo said.

As is always the case with artists of any medium — painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, writers — he and the players last year had hoped to do better. Such was also the case this year, although they’ve done exceptionally well.

At the 50th Annual Texas A&M University Kingsville Jazz Festival, the band earned a superior rating and first in their division. This event March 25 was especially significant because they competed against another Latin band from New Braunfels.

“It was nice to see another group of students playing Latin music,” he said.

Stevie Rosignoli, 18, also appreciated the opportunity to compete against another Latin music band.

“We got first place,” said Stevie, a senior who plays keyboards.

She appreciated the opportunity to play more pieces.

“We’re playing 20-something songs,” she said. “It’s really great learning a lot more music, playing like they played it, like Pancho Sanchez.”

Stevie was referring to the fact that, while other types of music have arrangements according to skill level, Latin pieces are played as written by the composer.

“With salsa, the charts are directly translated from the composer,” Liendo said.

This year the young musicians faced more challenges. Fewer students have been performing with the salsa group and, as a result, the musicians are delivering more individual performances.

“On top of that, we have a new rhythm section,” he said. “The rhythm section is lining up really well.”