About 13 professional musicians and vocalists who have worked with some of the top acts in the country visited Ector County Independent School District students this week to mark Jazz for Middle Schools.
The musicians are also conducting clinics for Odessa College and University of Texas of the Permian Basin students. Thursday, they worked with the Odessa High School Jazz Band at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center.
Fine Arts Coordinator John Gillian said the music is jazz and pop, but it has increased interest among students in jazz. Gillian noted that the Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School jazz band was added this year because of previous Jazz for Middle School events.
Gillian said he expects the musical performances during the past couple of days have changed lives.
Saxophonist Tom Evans said he got involved with the jazz events through Executive Director of Fine Arts Mark Lyon when Lyon was in Uvalde.
Thursday was the first time the musicians had a chance to work with the students, Evans said.
“… The kids are like sponges. That’s why I enjoyed working at Uvalde. They just are really eager to learn and so it’s very rewarding for all of us to come and do this because they’re just so interested in music. It’s great for us,” Evans said.
He said some of the students may have potential to become professional.
“You never know. You just want to encourage them to do what they want to do and to explore every kind of music. You try to open up their eyes, whether it’s a career choice for them or not. As long as you’re passionate about it or get excited about it, whether it be dance, or theater, or sports or whatever, it’s great for kids to get outside, to do stuff for themselves rather than sitting and looking at a computer all day,” Evans said.
Bass guitarist Derek Frank said he hopes he and his fellow musicians have inspired some youngsters.
“It’s been great, especially the younger kids. They get a little more excited sometimes. The older kids are too cool for school and don’t want to show emotion as much as the younger kids. But elementary school kids are a blast. The last show we did yesterday (Wednesday), for the last song they all came up to the front of the stage. It was cool,” Frank said.
He said young audiences can be a lot better than the adult version.
“… A lot of times they watch a concert through their cell phone. Everybody’s out there looking at you through their cell phone. You just want to tell them put the phone away (and) enjoy the experience,” Frank said.
Fornero said the quality of music he’d heard so far Thursday morning was better than he expected.
“I thought they were actually quite good. The concept of swing music was something that they’re developing. I thought overall it was quite good,” Fornero said.
He added that the musicians played six concerts in two days for middle school students.
“All the concerts are at Bonham Middle School, but Bonham Middle School kids were at the last one and they went absolutely hysterical. The reason we’re here is to try to excite these kids and to have some influence on them to consider the arts as part of their schooling and as part of their life,” Fornero said.
He said the feeling of gratitude he got after playing the Bonham concert made he and his colleagues feel like they were appreciated and that their messages were getting through.
“It was one of the great experiences of my life. It was really special,” Fornero said.
The OHS jazz band is conducted by assistant OHS Band Director Jimmy Olague.
Isaac Beseril, a 17-year-old junior saxophone player, said it was interesting to hear what the musicians had to say and what they could teach him and fellow students about what they had learned over the years.
Jersain Hermosillo, an 18-year-old senior, plays the trombone.
“I think it’s pretty outstanding because not everyone gets the opportunity to get as many people as we did to come and help us get better,” fellow student and trombone player Jersain Hermosillo said.