by Myralexis Tijerina | staff writer
Walking out the door, cello in hand, freshman Francesca Baldwin feels confident about the three to four minute solo ensemble performance she just gave at Madison high school. She has never made it this far in Orchestra UIL before. After completing her performance she then heads off to the cafeteria to wait for the results as determined by the judge who viewed her performance. Little did she know the news that awaited her in about an hour.
“At first I didn’t think we [my partner and I] could qualify for state. I didn’t even know that was an option, or a thing we could do when I found out,” Baldwin said. “I heard that some people made state. I heard out of thousands of people that audition maybe a few 100 or something like that [qualify for state], but it made me happy that we earned it, and we worked hard for it.”
There are many organizations that have the potential to make it to the state level, including various fine arts, sports, and clubs. Not every organization may achieve this status, however this year Orchestra, Legacies, wrestling and swimming have all qualified at the state/national level.
“All the kids that go to state represent Johnson high school and every time one [organization] goes to state it’s really putting a line on the campus indicating that they must have a pretty good program,” principal John Mehlbrech said. “It really intrigues people who don’t know about Johnson, who are into that particular sport, or that particular event, or that particular fine arts program.”
Reaching the state level may look different depending on the individual group or organization. For example for athletes, the state competition could just be the next step in the season, or could be an entirely new experience for coaches and/or students.
“I am so proud that we had six wrestlers make it to state. We tied with Churchill in bringing the most students to the state competition and this is the second year in a row that we led the district in [terms of the] amount of students going to state. I am especially happy that out of the six, four were girls,” wrestling coach Leslie Salazar said. “This is the first year we have had more than three girls on the team so the fact that we had an increase in numbers, and a ton of success throughout the year from the girls really impacts the reputation of the sport schoolwide.”
For junior Gregory Quintanilla, being able to build upon his past experiences has allowed him to continue to push himself in order to reach his goals.
“My sophomore year, it didn’t go very well for me. I lost two matches, then I was out of the tournament, but being there was a good start,” Quintanilla said. “Then coming this year to actually go again and place, it shows how much improvement I made in a year and as a good morale boost just so that I can improve and push myself to another [competition]. I can gain more things and not just stagnate at the same spot.”
In addition to wrestling, Legacies also made it to the national competition this year after advancing in a series of local competitions.
“How we prepare them or how I do [this] is that I take them to local competitions. I started back in November taking them to an NDA [National Dance Alliance] regional competition and it really did help them;I’m getting them in that mindset. Then I went to local competitions a couple weeks, like a weekend off to make sure their mental state or physical state was strong enough for nationals,” dance instructor Stephanie Trevino-Felan said. “But it’s practicing every single morning at 7:15; being very diligent, having discipline. If we don’t have discipline then it’s going to be very hard for me to ever teach the team’s anything about work ethic, stamina, endurance, but it’s all those puzzle pieces coming together to get ready for that big undertaking.”
Even though some days were more difficult than others, and frustrations occasionally ran high, the team was able to come together when they needed to.
“It’s not that difficult working as a team. I think one of our strongest suits in our past year has been is that we don’t get that frustrated with each other. So yes, our team has downfalls and yes every team goes through stress and hardships, but we do a really good job of putting them aside and leaving it out the door so while in practice we be the best for ourselves and the team,” senior Raven Banda said.
This year, the national competition took place in Florida during the week of February 25-29 and was filled with much excitement and anticipation, according to junior Loren Bergholtz. The team had no idea what results they would receive as the day continued on, however, once all of the results came in everyone gathered around to await the news.
“While waiting for our results we all sat together, held our hands and closed our eyes as the announcer called up schools starting from 17. As soon as they hit number eight, the announcer said, ‘Coming in eighth in the large varsity Pom Division… Johnson high school’. We all stood up and were ecstatic. We were beyond happy with the results we had,” Bergholtz said. “The final day was kick finals’; we nailed that routine. As the announcer called our name for fourth place, everyone stood up, and bawled their eyes out with tears of joy. After that moment I felt so relieved.”
After hearing the results of the competition, the team decided to celebrate by visiting some local theme parks and delighting in the moment.
“All we had left to do was have park day. We went to Universal Studios and had a blast. We created a numerous amount of memories and laughs. I’ll never forget all of the memories and fun we made at nationals,” Bergholtz said. “I’m beyond blessed to be a part of this amazing team.”
Along with dance, wrestling, and swimming, orchestra also made it to the state level in the region.
“Well I’m very proud of them [students]. The thing is that they are self-motivated; I think that’s what I like most about it. The students who worked hard to memorize it [their music] and are interested in going to state I think it really says a lot about them, is that they are self-motivated to do it. It’s not something I make them do or require of them but the fact that they want to do it on their own is pretty commendable,” Orchestra Director Karen George said.
From mid-October until January 30 when competitions took place, orchestra students prepared themselves by practicing their music on a regular basis. For example, senior Alyssa Pena had the option of performing either a solo, ensemble, or quartet for competition, but later decided to perform with her sister Alexa and make the experience that much more memorable.
“Well my sister is my best friend, even though we fight and even though I don’t like her sometimes going with her is just..it’s kinda the best because I could always count on her to like make me smile. Even if we do horrible or like if I said if we do great, it doesn’t matter if we do horrible, we had fun together,” Pena said. “And we went to state last year for our ensemble. We played this iconic piece and when we came out we felt good about it, and when we performed it at solo ensemble of course we both had our mishaps, but to be there with her and do the best we could it meant the most to me.”
Regardless of how far she makes it in the competition, simply being able to pursue music in this capacity, whether it’s individually and/or with her peers, seems equally as important according to Baldwin.
“Orchestra is a big part of my life musically because it defines who I am and music is a part of me and that is something you cannot take away from someone,” Baldwin said. “It’s a big responsibility and pride to go to state, which means you have to work harder and it brings a lot of excitement especially when you’re working with your best friend.”