By Abbey Snow
The Virgin Valley High School Jazz and Intermediate Band groups performed their first concert of the year Tuesday evening in the high school auditorium.
VVHS Band Director Kendra Graf conducted the concert. She has been teaching band for 12 years and currently teaches: intermediate and advanced band, jazz band, percussion ensemble, color guard, marching band, and pep band.
The evening started out with the concert band that is made up of beginning through advanced players.
“We have this wonderful mentoring that happens between the older, more experienced students and the younger ones,” Graf said to the audience. “They have come such a long way in this group, and I really can’t wait to see where they end up especially by the time they perform in our spring concert, festival, and our Senior Showcase. I am so very, very proud of them.”
Shane Zarate is a freshman who plays tuba in intermediate band, as well as piano on the side. He has been playing for four years and loves the enrichment music has brought into his life.
“Band is great because you get to meet a lot of different people of all grades and we all have become friends,” Zarate said. ” We all learn to come together and work as a team. Mrs. Graf is really nice and helpful and can help with just about anything we need. It makes band a lot of fun and we try our best.”
The Jazz Ensemble II performed next with Charles Hughes Middle School Band Director Conrad Allen filling in for the principal alto saxophone player who was not able to attend. Aside from teaching at the middle school, Allen collaborates with Graf instructing the jazz band ensembles at the high school.
“We have two jazz bands at the high school right now,” Allen said. “We had enough people audition for Jazz I that we decide to add Jazz II as well. I and Graf have our specialties; with hers being in brass, and mine more in woodwind, that I think we complement each other very well.’
Daisy Sanchez is a sophomore who plays the alto saxophone in intermediate, advanced, and jazz band. She also plays flute in marching band and hopes to attend college as a music major.
“Mrs. Graf is probably one of best music teachers I have ever had,” Sanchez said. “I really love her and she motivates us and pushes us to try our best. She really works hard to help us out, and works with us around our class schedules in school to make things more flexible. We are like a big family here.”
Graf’s students express much gratitude for her inspiration and dedication to them. However, Graf also mentions how her students have motivated her to become a better teacher.
“There are great musicians at this school and I feel like my students are constantly pushing me to be better as well,” Graf said. ” I often am directing and guiding, but so often the students have a lot of ideas and input. They mention things such as parts we should work on more, or have input on how we can make a song piece run smoother. The students are so passionate and creative about it, and they want to constantly be improving.”
The concert finished with Jazz Ensemble I performing four musical pieces.
Graf said it’s hard to obtain good music teachers in smaller, rural areas. However, the schools in Mesquite have been fortunate to have great teachers at both the middle and high schools over the years, she said.
“I think it’s wonderful, and I absolutely love to see these teenagers so engaged and motivated with music,” Graf said.
As with many school programs, the music ensembles lack funding for students to obtain supplies and attend events. Currently band students are selling small items to the public such as sunglasses to help raise the extra needed money. Also, supplies or donations of any amount are greatly appreciated. For those interested in helping, contact Kendra Graf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next VVHS band concert will take place in early December.