When professional musicians make the trip to Glen Rose High School, it can only mean sweet music for the Tiger Pride Band.
On Tuesday afternoon, seven Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) musicians arrived to teach a master class for the fourth-straight year. The program is made possible by a generous donation from Fran and the late John Wasilchak. Band director Ray Portillo talked about how special the opportunity is for his Tigers.
“Aledo (High) is just getting into this program as well; as a matter of fact they just had their master class (Tuesday) morning,” Portillo said. “But the opportunity is very rare, especially regarding the distance they traveled to work with us. Orchestras usually work mainly with schools in their city or vicinity. We’re very fortunate they make the effort.”
The seven FWSO musicians who came to Glen Rose this year included Preston Thomas (percussion), Ron Wilson (trombone), Jan Crisanti (flute), Victoria Luperi (clarinet), Alton Adkins (horn), Oscar Garcia-Montoya (trumpet) and Ed Jones (tuba).
Thomas has made the trip to Glen Rose all four years.
“I know that (the Wasilchaks) have been supporting this and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Glen Rose school system, as well as the symphony musicians,” Thomas said.
He then addressed his experiences with the Tigers through the years and paid them a huge compliment.
“I have to say that all four years the students have been attentive, courteous and have been very well trained by the band director,” he said. “I know it’s not that way at all schools in this country right now. It’s always a pleasure for me to go out there because I feel like I help them and they seem to have a good time learning. This year’s senior class was the freshman class when we started this, so it’s fun to talk with them.
“Those students are more comfortable with you and are quick to ask questions. The key to enjoying it is working with kids who care about what we’re doing. I hope (the Wasilchak) family continues to support it so we keep this going.”
Wilson has also been a four-year program participant. He recalled the decision to come to Glen Rose in year one.
“The (FWSO) hired us to come (to Glen Rose) and play a concert, and we were told there was a master class to be taught, so I volunteered,” Wilson said. “(Fran Wasilchak) is a really nice benefactor and she obviously really likes music to have made all this possible.”
Wilson’s comments on his experiences at GRHS were also extremely positive.
“When you deal with professional adult musicians all the time, it’s really different to work with high school students,” Wilson said. “All of us musicians that make this trip pretty much agree that we enjoy coming to Glen Rose. The kids are always interested, polite and they at least try the things that you suggest to them. When you teach in the DFW area, you’ll get a lot of kids that will just sit there and roll their eyes, but kids in Glen Rose want to play better and understand how everything works.”
The rave reviews carried over to a trio of Tiger seniors who are veterans in the program. Jaimie Capps plays clarinet.
“This program has helped me get to state (competition) the past two years,” Capps said. “It made me improve on my instrument so much, as far as my technique. Working with these musicians puts a goal in mind, if I were to go into music. I look at what they’ve accomplished and think I could do it, too.”
Capps spoke honestly about how her impression of the program has changed.
“The first year we did the program, I’m not going to lie, I thought it was just going to be more playing of our instruments than we already do,” she said. “But now, in the fourth year, I was excited to do it and I couldn’t wait to ask more questions. I’ve had more questions each year.
“It’s improved our sound quality and overall musicianship. This year is the best we’ve sounded.”
Senior Elisa Wiseman plays trumpet.
“I want to go on to be a music educator, so this is preparing me for my career,” Wiseman said of the program. “(Garcia-Montoya) was really cool because he helped me with specific etudes I will play at concerts. It helped me get better. It’s awesome they come to our school and watching (Garcia-Montoya) teach us helps me teach my trumpet section because he’s really good.
“I appreciate the constructive input. (The FWSO) musicians think we’re good and that makes me so proud.”
Wiseman holds greater appreciation for the work of the FWSO than most.
“I’ve gotten to go to a lot of the FWSO performances and hear them play as a group,” she said. “It’s really cool to have the opportunity to talk to them and try to play like them. I really enjoy seeing them live.”
Senior Ben McPherson plays tuba.
“I learned how to breathe more correctly and get a better articulation with my tone; this experience has just made me a better player,” McPherson said. “The biggest thing I will take from (this event) is learning the breathing exercises (as a tuba player). My instructor zoned in on that with a lot of examples.”
McPherson also gave a tip of the cap to the Wasilchak family.
“This is a very nice event we get to have,” he said. “I appreciate (Fran Wasilchak) spending money on us to help us learn more about music.”
Portillo left no doubt about the impact of these annual FWSO master classes on the Tiger Pride Band.
“This helps tap into the kids’ understanding of music a little more than we can deliver sometimes in (regular) class because everything is specialized to their specific instrument,” Portillo said. “The cool thing is light bulbs start to come on for the kids learning from a master at their instrument. The kids become a little more confident at what they’re doing and it’s a huge benefit for our band overall.
“Music needs to be fun and emotional, not just analytical. I want the kids to walk away from this excited about making music.”