Music director takes center stage, once again

Ronnie Rios

HARLINGEN — He’s been the best of the best, more than once, more than twice.

And again, Ronnie Rios, director of music programs for the Harlingen school district, has caught the attention and admiration of people who know quality.

“I was completely shocked when I heard about it,” Rios said about learning the Texas Bandmasters Association had named him recipient of a 2019 Meritorious Achievement Award.

Each year, TBA recognizes those who have made a difference in the lives of band students in Texas. It is a tradition dating back to 2000 for TBA to honor those who exemplify the qualities of an exemplary band director with the Meritorious Achievement Award.

Rios had known of other band directors receiving the prestigious award but never thought he’d get it himself.

“I just knew that other people who won that award were people that had a big impact in their communities, and I just didn’t see myself doing that,” he said. “I just never took a birds-eye view of some of the things that I’ve done in the past.”

A TBA release stated Rios has been nominated for a Grammy on numerous occasions. As band director at Harlingen High School for 21 years, all six concert bands have received consistent UIL sweepstakes awards, the release said. The concert band has made 11 consecutive appearances at the Texas State Marching Band Championships since 1998.

School board member Bobby Muniz described Rios’ work as “amazing.”

“I’m excited he’s gotten this recognition,” Muniz said. “As a school district we are privileged to have him as our director of music. He’s an exciting, energetic, full of life person and you see that with his students.”

Rios spoke extensively about so many former students who have done “tremendous things in their lives.”

“A lot of them come back and share that with me,” he said. “A lot of them are college graduates or ranking officers in the military or business owners. They share their successes with me. I think right there is kind of a barometer of some of the influence that I may have had with them along the way.”

That success plays directly into the joy he derived from being a band director.

“I love getting students to a place to succeed at something,” he said. “When students succeed at something they feel incredible about themselves, they feel incredible about their teammates, they feel incredible about their high school. It’s just a buzz in the air. It’s a feel-good for everyone.”

He says he strove every day to make band so much fun that kids would look forward to coming to school. Apparently, he succeeded, as inspired teachers often do.

Accomplishments at Harlingen High School under Ronnie Rios

  • Concert band has earned positions in the finals of Bands of America Regional Champions.
  • Concert band has also won numerous 1st Place Festival Awards and Grand Champion Marching Band Awards throughout South and Central Texas.
  • Concert band has advanced to the Texas 6A Honor Band Finals numerous times, finishing as high as 9th in the state.
  • Jazz Ensemble has received consistent Best in Class awards and numerous “Outstanding Band of the Festival” awards.
  • Jazz Ensemble has been a featured performing group at the International Association for Jazz Education in New York City
  • Jazz Ensemble has also served as a featured group to Duke Ellington’s music with guest Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center

Did you know?

The Texas Bandmasters Association promotes the value of music education in society and the important role instrumental music plays in our cultural, intellectual and social lives.

twhitehead@valleystar.com