Five students from Tuloso-Midway High School beat out more than 50,000 students from around the state of Texas to perform recently in various All-State music groups in San Antonio.
The performances were part of the annual Texas Music Educators Association convention, which was held this year in San Antonio from Feb. 11-14. More than 1,500 students participated in the event.
Seventeen-year-old Marcos Bustamante, a senior at TMHS, where he plays trumpet in the school's band, said the performance was a first for him, having tried out for All-State Band in years prior.
"It was intense," Bustamante said. "I think it was the best performance I have ever participated in. You know, you come from being at the top of your school to a place where you're not even looked at as one of the top players - you are a top player."
For senior Jason Rodriguez, 17, the privilege of performing with the best players in the state was the result of years of hard work, he said. Rodriguez plays bass clarinet for the TMHS band.
"I was really happy," Rodriguez said, adding that he plans to major in music after high school in order to become a band director. "Since I was a freshman, I wanted to make All-State Band, and I did it."
For 17-year-old Meagan Contreras, who performed Sunday as a soprano 1 in the All-State Women's Choir, the trip was her second, having made it to the convention last year as a sophomore.
Contreras said she was briefly disappointed when she found out in January that she had made All-State Choir, mainly because she received the same position as last year, but that feeling soon faded.
"I was pretty disappointed, but then after all of it, I just said, 'You know what? I made the All-State Choir. OK, the rest of it doesn't matter,'" Contreras said.
With it being a repeat performance for Contreras, she said the nerves didn't affect her this year as much as her first appearance at the state level.
"I kind of got a grip on (performing in) the Convention Center…but I wasn't as nervous this year," Contreras said.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Garcia, who performed as an alto 2 in the All-State Mixed Choir, said she has been singing longer than she can remember, adding that it helped her overcome a bout of early childhood shyness.
"I was real shy and I would always stand like two feet away from the (microphone), because I was shy. After a while I got over that," Garcia said. "Singing in front of people doesn't really bother me."
To be able to perform at a higher level with other top singers in the state was an opportunity Garcia said she is fortunate to have received.
"I (am) just blessed and a lot of hard work paid off in the end," Garcia said. "I worked really hard for this and I practiced every morning and in the afternoons and I've wanted to pay off, at least once during high school. So, I was just glad it paid off."
Gerald Martinez, an 18-year-old alto saxophone player who joined his two other band mates, Bustamante and Rodriguez, in performing Saturday for the All-State Symphonic Band, said hard work was the key for everyone involved. Competition for the All-State music groups began in the fall of 2008 and entailed multiple rounds before final selections were made in January.
"It was very rewarding after all the competition that we had to go through," Martinez said. "It was just real crazy being with other musicians at a higher level."
The idea of being in the same room with other talented players was intimidating for some of the students.
"There…there's no question about it, they were all good," Martinez said. "You know, you don't want to mess up or you don't want to do anything because they all perform at such a high level."
But for Garcia, once the music started to sound, all of those nervous feelings went out the window.
"That first sound that we all made together was just absolutely amazing," Contreras said. "The best of the best in the state, all together in one room."
Nearly all of the students have plans to pursue music after high school, with Garcia saying she would like to pursue her singing further.
"I can't see myself doing anything other than music," Garcia said.
But Bustamante will lay down his instruments in college in order to pursue his dream of obtaining an engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Still, the experience of performing at the state level is something he'll take with him.
"It felt surreal, like if it wasn't really there, as if somebody was just kidding around with me, like a joke or something," Bustamente said. "You know, you work so hard for so long and then it finally pays off. Everything that you've been doing all year has finally worked into this one moment.
"This is an excellent way to end (my) high school career."