Auditions bring out talent in schoolchildren

HARLINGEN — “My mom just shot herself,” shrieked Arianna Acuna as she delivered her monologue.

“How old are you?” she said, now the voice of the 911 operator as she auditioned for a spot in the Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences.

Arianna, 12, was one of several aspiring performers who auditioned Thursday for the new program which will begin in the fall. They sang, danced and performed for two judges who were delighted by the presentations.

“Some of its talent we’ve never seen before,” said Sally Cavazos, director of fine arts for the Harlingen school district.

“We are discovering new talent, new faces,” she said.

Auditions are open for students who will enter sixth, seventh or eighth grade next year. They can audition to be in musical theater, dance or theater production, Cavazos said.

The auditions included a 30-second acting or monologue piece, a song demonstrating a student’s vocal range, or a dance audition, said David Amador, the other judge. Amador is in his first year as a drama teacher at Gutierrez, and he looks forward to working with the fledgling program there.

“I want to say I am lucky,” he said. “There’s a lot of hidden talent and it’s very nice to see kids actually motivated and willing to give it a try.”

Those who are accepted will attend Gutierrez Middle School next year. They’ll spend the mornings taking classes across the street at the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory, and they’ll take their core curriculum back at Gutierrez in the afternoon.

The new program at Gutierrez fills the final gap in the district’s fine arts initiatives. Elementary students can begin their experience in the fine arts at Lee Means Fine Arts Academy, and the district opened the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory just this year for high school students.

One familiar face in the Harlingen performing arts scene is Bianca Rios, a fifth grader at Lee Means. She mentioned a few months back she was glad she could continue her practice at Gutierrez. The young actress and singer delivered a stellar performance last fall in the district’s production of “Frozen.”

She’s already auditioned and been accepted to the Gutierrez program.

“I feel very excited,” said Bianca, 11. “I get to have a good experience of going to learn more about the arts and music and theater at the PAC. The people have a lot of experience with dance, music and acting. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Thursday was the third audition. So far 60 students have auditioned, and applications keep pouring in, meaning more auditions and more talent.

“It just keeps getting bigger,” Cavazos said. “There may be a fourth audition.”

Those wishing to try out can submit an online application on the Gutierrez Middle School website https://gutierrez.hcisd.org/