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US Navy Band, Army Band host masterclass for PSJA Early College High School clarinet section

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SAN JUAN – As a way to teach music education in a safe way, the United States Navy Band and U.S. Army Band recently hosted two special Masterclasses through Zoom for clarinet students in the PSJA Early College High School Mighty Bear Band. 

“These ensembles are some of the best in the world so it’s an honor that we had not only one, but two Masterclasses for our students,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “Only a few schools from across the country had the chance to participate in these Masterclasses, which gives our students this unique opportunity to advance their music education.”

During the Masterclass, the professional musicians shared helpful tips, talked about dealing with performance anxiety, offered career and college options for musicians and even asked a few students to play their music live for feedback. 

“Having these professionals actually come to us and help people I know, like helping my friends, was honestly such an amazing experience,” said 11th grade clarinet student Iliana Mares. “My favorite part was when they talked to us about performance anxiety because I have a lot of that, and I’m sure others do too so that’s what I’m taking from this.”

Amy Eich, Musician First Class (MU1) with the Navy shared that hosting virtual Masterclasses with students across the country is how they are working to keep music alive during the pandemic.

“With everything going on, we can’t go out and give concerts and classes in person, so this is an alternative to connect to people,” she said. “Being musicians, connecting with high school students who enjoy music, it’s not always about becoming a professional musician, it’s about loving music and becoming better at it. I just think it’s important to show the value of music and the best way to do that right now is on the computer screen.”

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PSJA ECHS Assistant Band Director Jennifer Garcia, who reached out to both the US Army and US Navy Bands for access to the Masterclasses, hopes the sessions confirm to her students that what they learn can help them in the long run.  

“I hope they walk away knowing that what they’re learning in school goes a long way,” Garcia said. “And I hope that they just have a better appreciation for music in general and playing their instrument, and that it’s a good thing to play an instrument and to just feel good about it.”

Senior Elizabeth Garcia learned exactly that. The clarinet player joined the Masterclass wanting to pursue music as a career and walked away with an even stronger passion for it.

“I had wanted to become a band director like our teacher Ms. Garcia, but after this class, I’m now leaning toward being a performer,” Garcia said.

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