OHS sending guitarists to state competitionProfessors from around Texas will be judges

Odessa High School will send 19 students to the Texas Solo-Ensemble contest during Memorial Day weekend at the University of Texas at Austin.
That’s six more than the 13 who qualified last year and there are some who were beginners last year, but made the jump all the way to state. The competition is May 27 through May 29 and the OHS guitarists will perform on the second day, Guitar Director Jose Campos said.
“I feel that we’ve worked on the focus of how to practice, not necessarily performance, but more of what to practice (and) how to practice smarter not harder. That’s kind of what I teach. And also, I worked on our musicality,” Campos said.
Students will be judged by guitar professors from around the state. Meeting the professors gives youngsters a chance to show their skills and earn invitations to check out the various campuses.
“They get a lot of opportunities by going to contest,” Campos said.
Last year was Campos’ first year as OHS guitar director.
“We did well. We had 13 make state. At the contest … I believe we had four make 1s and the rest made 2s,” Campos said. He added that some students couldn’t make the competition because of graduation plans.
“Getting a 1 is actually very difficult at the state level,” Campos added. “They have a very high assessment that they use.
Campos said solo competition has always been offered at the state level, but he would like to see guitar be included in ensemble, just like band, choir, orchestra and mariachi compete in. The students’ success at state helps promote that objective, he said.
“The state sees that this is a good program,” Campos said. “These students are becoming successful, not only musically but academically because, of course, you can’t compete without eligibility.”
This year, Campos said he had two freshmen qualify for state, seniors who are multi-year participants and three seniors who were beginners last year, but were able to push themselves and catch up to the other guitarists who have been playing for many years.
“They just really wanted it bad,” Campos said. “I’m very, very proud of those guys because that’s a hard leap to make from not knowing how to play necessarily last year to state level. They worked really hard,” Campos added. “Some of them take private lessons, some of them just spend a lot of time after school and before school and some of them are just naturally talented. But their hard work and natural talent made it happen for them.”
Overall, Campos said the achievement of making it to state was well-deserved by his students.
“They chose pieces that were very challenging to them,” Campos said. “They didn’t take an easy way into this where they chose something that just met the minimum requirements to make state. No. They pushed themselves and that’s something that we promote here is that we don’t get better unless we want to be. And that one has to drive what we select to study.”
Joshua Chavez, a 17-year-old senior, is one of the seniors who was a novice last year.
“I’ve always wanted to be a guitarist since I played Guitar Hero like when that first came out with my cousin. I never thought I’d be good enough, so I didn’t really pursue it until last year,” Chavez said. “I figured if I liked it, I could get another year to practice, which was this year. And if I didn’t like it, I could just get out, but I loved it.”
Chavez added that he’s thrilled about making state.
“All the hard work paid off. I feel like it will be a bit of a challenge to learn the new song, but I think I’m up for the challenge,” Chavez said.
Fifteen-year-old freshman Bradin Walker has been strumming since seventh grade.
“I hope that I do well (in the contest) because it was really fun to learn the solo and I hope I do well in the state in the competition,” Walker said. He added that he feels a little nervous, but he’s sure he can do well.
Kolby Giles, a 17-year-old senior, is in his sixth year of playing the guitar and his third year going to state.
“I always wanted to play guitar. My grandpa played guitar when he was younger. I really liked it. I got my first guitar when I was like in sixth grade, but I didn’t know how to play it so I didn’t play,” Giles said.
He went through the program at Ector Middle School, taught by Jose Campos’ mother, Elena, and said that helped him a lot, as it did many of the other OHS students.
“My first year was definitely like the gateway,” Giles said. “I guess and it pushed me to really work hard and that’s what got me here.”
Giles said it’s a great feeling to make state a third time, especially because this is one of the hardest solos he’s tried. “I definitely feel good about the solo. I really like it. It’s very true to the Spanish roots of guitar … ,” he added.
Along with guitar, other music groups heading to state are band, orchestra, choir and mariachi.