The Donna Independent School District’s Fine Arts Department is hoping a new, fun and exciting singing competition will encourage more students to participate in the district’s choir programs.
The Talent was introduced for the first time this year during the inaugural Fine Arts Scholarship Benefit Concert. Donna ISD Fine Arts Director Guadalupe Ibarra said the contest was launched as a way to recruit students to join the district’s choir classes.
“The Talent is a recruitment approach to increase enrollment in our choir courses,” Ibarra explained. “I found out that there are many students in the general student population who aren’t doing any kind of extracurricular activity. I have found them interested in music but they don’t want to come to choir because they fear the traditional choir style so The Talent is an approach to recruit students into our choir courses.”
Ibarra said The Talent is also intended to help students find their purpose. “It can give students an opportunity to find their ‘why, their reason, why should I come to school, why should I care about school,’ ”Ibarra said. “I believe that if we coach them in what they’re interested in, they will then have a reason and a motivation to do better in their academics so it’s two fold. We help our choir enrollment and we help the students find their motivation.”
The contestants who participated in The Talent this year were Donna North High School’s sophomore Lillie Pena, junior Jesus Trevino and senior Armando Cortez. The idea was to encourage students who had never taken any vocal lessons or performed in front of a crowd to audition for the competition.
“We took non-Fine Arts students and had them coached by our choir directors on different music styles so each student had to come out and sing one song in one particular style and come back out again and sing a second song in a different style,” Ibarra said. “After they were done with the singing, the audience applauded for their favorite contestant. We honored the winner with a grand champion trophy.”
The students performed before a large audience at the Simon Sauceda Auditorium at Donna High School. “At first I was a little nervous but then I let go and it was very exciting and a lot of fun,” Pena said. “I felt alive.” Cortez experienced similar feelings. “I felt nervous but excited,” he said. “I’m proud I had the courage to go out there in front of those people.” Trevino explained how he felt. “You have to learn to relax when you’re going to be in front of an audience,” he said. “I felt good and I was calm.”
Ibarra was proud of the students. He said he’s already noticed a change in their attitudes. “We are already seeing some of the results,” Ibarra said. “These non-choir students who participated in The Talent have now started to hang around the choir room during lunch and before and after school and they’re wanting to enroll in the classroom. We just haven’t been able to enroll them this semester because of schedule conflicts but we’re already seeing the results.”
He’s optimistic these same students will become his recruiters. “I’m hoping that they go out and talk to their friends and say ‘hey choir is much more than the traditional singing that we know choir to be,’ ” Ibarra said. “Plus, after they experience being on stage in front of their community, they’re going to receive a lot of exposure and praises and that will build their self-confidence. We’re hoping that they can go out there and spread the word.”
Cortez, who is graduating this year, enjoyed his experience. “I learned that anything is possible,” Cortez said. “You have to have the courage to go and do things that are thought to be impossible. It’s definitely helped boost my confidence.”
Pena and Trevino appreciated the experience as well. They are considering joining a choir class next year.