Jazz students improve their way to excellence

HARLINGEN — There’s always something new in the world of jazz.

That’s how Saul Velez seemed to look at his performance as a jazz trombonist, and how he managed to perform so well at recent auditions for two top bands.

“When you do this music, you learn a lot of things. It’s all a learning experience,” said Saul, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School South.

Saul is one of 20 jazz students from throughout Region 28 — Donna to Brownsville — who have qualified to audition for one of two TMEA Texas All-State Jazz Bands. Ten students from Harlingen High School also qualified, which means more than half of those auditioning came from Harlingen.

Those 11 students turned in their recordings for the audition Oct. 10.

“They are very dedicated students and very committed to improving their skills,” said Maria Coronado, band director for Harlingen High School.

“They have great leadership and guidance from their lesson teachers,” Coronado said.

The 11 students qualified for the audition at the TMEA Region 28 Jazz Auditions at Harlingen High School on Sept. 22. They were part of a group of 17 Harlingen students who qualified for two Region Jazz Bands.

“They are the ones that prepare the music with the least amount of flaws,” Coronado said. “They have a stronger understanding of that style, how you play it.”

Students spoke often about how much effort they put into their performance.

“I put a lot of hours into my work,” said Sean Wood, a junior trumpet player at Harlingen High School who just sent in his recording.

“We used three different pieces that I think show what we can do,” said Sean, 17.

The music gave winners plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their expertise. That opportunity is what made the difference, said Diego Johnson, junior alto sax player at Harlingen High School.

“I think what made the difference is our sense of style and technique and fine technique,” said Diego, 16. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to try out.”

Michael Maldonado, 17, expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s the hours we put into the craft, the technique,” said Michael, a senior drum player at HHS.

Saul has spent long hours perfecting his skill.

“It was definitely a lot of work, all the way through, listening to different jazz musicians on YouTube,” he said. “I’m always learning different things I didn’t know before.”

His band director Shane Shinsato commended him and the other students.

“I am of course beaming with pride for the success of our students,” Shinsato said. “I’m also very happy with their teachers and the level of instruction.”


WHAT: Texas Music Educators Association Region 28 Jazz Auditions

WHEN: Sept. 22

WHERE: Harlingen High School

WHY: To qualify to perform in two Region Jazz Bands

Of those who qualified, some were also allowed to audition for the TMEA All-State Jazz Bands.


Diego Johnson, 1st chair Alto Sax

Ariel Gonzales. 2nd chair

Jacob Garza-1st chair Tenor Sax

Ben Jaso (Cano Academy)-2nd chair Tenor Sax

Damasio Valadez-1st chair Bari-Sax

Sean Wood-3rd chair Trumpet

Matthew Chavez-3rd chair Trombone

Jacob Villarreal-4th chair Trombone

Jacob Garcia-8th chair Trombone

Jacob P. Garza-2nd chair Bass Trombone

Bianca Lopez-1st chair Guitar

Joshua Hueso- Morales-1st chair Piano

Michael Maldonado- 4th chair Drums


Ethan Gonzalez -10, Alto Sax

Luis Alicea-12, Tenor Trombone

Armando Cavada-11, Piano

Saul Velez-12, Tenor Trombone

Alternate Alto Sax-Cristian Olvera-12

Alternate Tenor Trombone-Daniel Hernandez-9