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Band students strike the right note to make school history

For the first time in its history, Academy High School's band will have students at state.

The school will be represented at the 2020 Texas Music Educators Association's Clinic and Convention in San Antonio after three of its band students were selected to perform with the Association of Texas Small Schools All-State Band.

"Most schools are proud when they have one (student) make All-State," AHS Band Director Raymond Mendez said. "So for us to have three make it is a big accomplishment. It's a tremendous feat."

AHS seniors Aidan Cardona and Jordan Sanchez, along with junior Sergio Soto, were selected for All-State honors this year, which is the highest accolade a Texas music student can receive in the TMEA system.

According to the TMEA website, nearly 1,800 students are selected through a process that begins with more than 68,000 students from around the state competing to perform in one of 15 All-State band, orchestra and choir ensembles.

Aidan, who was selected as first chair at area tryouts, said he was excited to have finally made the All-State Band.

"I just feel relieved that all of my hard work finally paid off," he said.

Aidan said making the all-state band was a personal goal

since entering high school. He credited a lot of his drive to a "friendly rivalry" he had with former H.M. King High School student Emilio Sanchez, a two-time all-stater who also played the baritone saxophone.

"My goal every year was to try and beat him, and that's what honestly got me better," he said. "We were friends, but we pushed each other to improve."

Aidan said he was looking forward to the rehearsal and concert, even though he admitted it would be "a little strenuous."

"We'll be rehearsing from nine in the morning until 10 at night," he said. "But it's going to be fun. I'll be with people from all over the state who have the same passion for music as me."

With his senior year almost over, Aidan is preparing to attend the University of Texas in Austin where he will major in biomedical engineering.

"I've been accepted and am looking at different scholarships," he said. "And I can still be in band. I asked (my recruiter) about that."

Sergio said while he is thrilled to have been selected for the All-State Band, he feels more pride at being among the first in his school's history to achieve the honor.

"I think it's a really great opportunity for us three, but also that it sets the bar for others to strive to," he said. "We're the first, but we don't want to be the last."

Sergio said has played the bassoon since seventh grade, something he said has become "just part of who I am." After missing the All-State Band by one spot last year, he said he began rehearsing "as early as possible" for the 2020 auditions.

"Most people start to get serious about it in maybe November or December, but I started working on it in the summer," he said.

Sergio finished the area audition by receiving first chair honors. He said he is looking forward to the convention, especially the rehearsal which he thinks will "be tiring, but a lot of fun."

"I've heard that the convention attracts 30,000 people," he said. "And it's going to be rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal for two days straight. I'm excited."

Although he still has a year of high school left, Sergio is already thinking about his future career as either a music producer or audio engineer.

"I want to be on the production side," he said.

Unlike his other statebound classmates, who started their music careers in middle school, Jordan waited until high school before joining the band.

"When I was in eighth grade, I was watching the Academy band in the La Posada parade," he said. "I thought it looked so cool, and so when it became time for my freshman year, I knew I wanted to be in the band."

Jordan said he didn't have his best performance at the region audition in December, finishing as eighth chair with his trumpet. While disappointed, he said the outcome left him even more determined to make it to state.

"From that point on, it was practice, practice, practice," he said.

At the area tryouts, Jordan's extra practice paid off as he received third chair honors. He said being selected for the All-State Band is "a great honor," but he also realizes that he still has a lot more work to do before the convention.

"I let loose when I made it, but now I have to tighten it up again," he said.

Jordan said he is most looking forward to the rehearsal as he said it will be an opportunity to "learn new things." He said he plans to become a music educator in the future, and enjoys both learning about and teaching music.

"Music is great, and I want everybody to see it like I do," he said.

The 2020 TMEA Clinic and Convention will be at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio from Feb. 12-15. Students performing in All-State bands and choirs will be rehearsing every day leading up to the Saturday concerts.

The ATSSB All-State Concert Band will perform at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 in the Lila Cockrell Theatre, located on the street level near the Grand Hyatt on Market Street, under the direction of David F. Wilborn of Texas A&M University.

The ATSSB All-State Symphonic Band, under the direction of Eugene Corporon of North Texas State University, will follow in the same theatre beginning at about 10:10 a.m.

For more information, visit tmea.org/convention.

Honoring the heroes of Vietnam

When Elias Cuevas was 21 years old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

He served in Vietnam for two years, from 1965-66, where he said he "went through some hard times."

"But if I had to do it over, I would do it all over again," he said.

Coming back home to South Texas in 1966 was a lonely experience, Cuevas said, because at that time "the country didn't appreciate us."

"We couldn't even talk about it," he said. "Nobody wanted to hear about it or appreciated what we did. It was a war that nobody liked. Even we didn't know what we were doing over there."

More than half a century has passed since Cuevas returned from Vietnam, and in that time attitudes towards Vietnam veterans have changed.

"It feels great," he said. "I'm no longer alone."

Cuevas was just one of more than 40 area Vietnam-era military veterans and surviving spouses honored with a special pinning ceremony Monday afternoon by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela and local officials at the American Legion Post 99 in Kingsville.

The pinning ceremony was open to military veterans who served between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975 during the time of the Vietnam War. It is part of an ongoing national effort that started in 2012 to thank and honor veterans of the war, highlight their service and pay tribute to their contributions.

The gold-colored lapel pins are embossed with a depiction of an eagle in front of a U.S. flag surrounded by a blue circle bearing the words "Vietnam War Veteran." On the back is the message, "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You."

Monday's pinning ceremony was Vela's second that day, having previously participated in a similar event in Alice just hours prior.

"And I have four more this week," he said. "Harlingen tomorrow,

Brownsville on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday will be in Beeville and Sinton. About 500-600 veterans will receive their lapel pins this week."

Vela said bringing the pinning ceremony to South Texas was important to him for "a lot of reasons."

"Mainly because our Vietnam War veterans weren't honored back then," he said. "It's taken us a long time to show them that we appreciate what they did."

Rolando Chapa, who like Cuevas received a lapel pin Monday, said he voluntarily joined the military just one month after graduating from H.M. King High School in 1968. In December that same year, he was sent to Vietnam.

"I was a medic in the infantry division," 70-year-old Chapa said. "I thank God that I made it back, and I'll never forget my comrades that didn't get back. They're always with me.

Chapa said while it was "wonderful" to get the recognition he said never came 50 years ago, he was more proud to have been able to share it with "so many of my brothers" that day.

"It lifts my spirits, you know," he said. "We all served, and now we're able to gather together like this. It makes me feel good."

The pinning ceremony was preceded by a barbecue luncheon at the American Legion post.

Brig. Gen. Greg Chaney, commander of the Texas Army National Guard, joined Vela during the ceremony and assisted with placing the lapel pins on veterans.

Also participating in the ceremony were NAS-Kingsville commanding officer Capt. Erik Spitzer, Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid, Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick, County Attorney Kira Talip Sanchez and District Attorney John Hubert.

After the pinning ceremony, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jerry Martinez presented a Quilt of Honor to Domingo Perez in recognition for his military service.

Quilts of Honor is an organization of volunteers who create handmade quilts for veterans and active members of the military. The Texas chapter of the organization is based out of San Antonio.

New royalty crowned during KKJLS Queen's Contest

Elegance and beauty were center-stage at the 2020 Queen's Contest for the 69th annual Kleberg-Kenedy County Junior Livestock Show, as three new queens were crowned on Saturday night.

Christopher Lee, Kleberg County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace served as the master of ceremonies for the evening and was joined by the 2019 Queen's Contest winners, junior queen Tatianna Galvan, intermediate queen Sarah Dupont and senior queen Sidney Zimmerman.

Kicking off the night were 14 participants from the junior division, as girls between grades three through five walked the stage of the Jones Auditorium at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Each contestant was given an opportunity to talk about their involvement in the KKJLS, and explained what they did in each show they decided to enter.

10-year-old Gabriella Garcia represented the Country Wranglers 4-H Club and is competing in a number of events for the KKJLS, including showing her market goat named "Maverick," and entering five different homemaking projects.

The fifth grader from

Ricardo Middle School said her favorite entry is her recycling project, made up of fence pickets she collected from her great-grandfather's old fence that she turned into a family sign.

Garcia was crowned the Junior Queen for 2020, just one year after being second runner up in 2019.

"It was an awesome day and I had to work really hard to get this far," Garcia said after her win. "I am very, very excited and grateful, and it was one of the best days ever."

The intermediate division followed with nine girls competing from grades six through eight.

Each contestant graced the stage and delivered their speech, but then awaited a question while on stage asked by Lee.

Cambell Radford, also a member of the Country Wrangler's 4-H Club, was the last contestant to enter the stage for the intermediate division.

In last year's Queen's Contest, Radford was the second runner up in the intermediate division.

Radford is entering the KKJLS with two animals, a swine she named "Hogwarts" and a lamb.

She will also be entering several homemaking projects, including candy, cake, quick bread, photography and creative arts.

Radford was asked how she would convince a friend to get involved in the livestock show.

"I would take them to see what it's all about," Radford said. "I would show them how to experience it and maybe teaching them some of my knowledge that I've learned throughout the years and letting them experience the greatness of the livestock show."

Radford returned to the stage later in the evening to receive her crown as intermediate queen, which she said surprised her.

"It felt great because I wasn't expecting it," Radford said. "I felt pretty good. I thought I had done good, but I wasn't expecting to win. It was a great feeling and I'm really proud of myself."

The senior division followed the intermediate contest and had two separate attire categories, casual and formal.

The senior division also included girls from grade nine through 12.

After giving their speeches while in their casual attire, the six contestants were asked to once again walk in their formal attire and answer a question.

Reagan Wright, a member of the South Texas Junior Leaders 4-H Club, is entering two homemaking competitions in photography and cake.

She will also be entering market broilers.

The Santa Gertrudis Academy sophomore was asked how agriculture affected her life.

"Agriculture affects my life not only because it offers me the shelter and food I have today, but also my clothing," Wright said on the stage.

After being brought back out to the stage for the final time, Wright was announced as the senior queen for 2020.

"It's unbelievable, I've been wanting to win senior queen since I was in third grade," Wright said after winning the contest. "All these girls are very beautiful and seeing the amount of hard work that they put in as well makes me very happy. I'm just really proud."

First runner up for the junior division was Isabella Kieschnick of Academy Pride FFA, and the second runner up was Gabriela Hare of 4-H County Council.

MaKenna Saenz from Santa Gertrudis 4-H was the runner up in the intermediate division, and the second runner up was Mia Barrientos of Lil Bit of Everything 4-H.

Morgan Bobbitt of Academy Pride FFA was the runner up for the Senior Division, ahead of second runner up Evelyn Posada, representing Kingsville FFA.