More than 500 Rio Grande Valley middle school students adorned in tuxedos and evening gowns gathered Monday, Nov. 5 at The University of Texas-Pan American for an evening of music and learning at a "Celebration of Musical Careers."
The event featured the UTPA Department of Music faculty and students discussing different types of music, instruments and career options, as well as a dress rehearsal performance by the Valley Symphony Orchestra at the Fine Arts Auditorium.
"It's good to see a bunch of musicians here tonight, and we are going to have lots of fun," said Chris Gassler of the music department. "Musicians are storytellers, and music is a universal language. Everybody understands music."
For some of the young music-goers, the event was a wonderful experience to listen to the orchestra and discover what the world of music has to offer for all ages. The students invited to event, were part of the UTPA and Region I GEAR UP Projects.
"I'm an all-rounded kind of person, and I like every type of music," said Anna Guzman, an eighth-grade student at Santa Rosa Middle School. "I thought it would be fun to attend tonight because I really wanted to hear the music."
The evening began with the UTPA Mariachi taking the stage at the Student Union Theatre to demonstrate its musical style. Also performing were Gassler and Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Department of Music chair, who did an original composition, Conversations, written by UTPA music professor Dr. Brent Smith.
Gassler also explained the importance of music in the students' lives and the possibility of making it a career, be it teaching, performing or composing it.
"Some of you will go on to a career in music and some of you won't, but it's all the same," Gassler said. "You'll sense an aura or a vibe about music that allows you to communicate with others."
The highlight of the evening for the students was the dress rehearsal performance of the Valley Symphony Orchestra/Valley Land Fund presentation of "Jewels of a Land Alive," which was performed Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The 20-minute show featured an original musical composition written by former UTPA music professor and Valley Symphony Orchestra conductor Dr. Carl Seale. It was accompanied by a visual presentation of images from the Valley Land Fund Wildlife Photo Contest put together by Ansen Seale, a multimedia production artist and Carl's son.