Annual Honor Concerts, showcasing student musicians, are in March

Posted: Friday, March 11th 2016


Practice for the High School Honor Concert

The annual San Diego Unified Honor Concerts, which showcase musicians across grade levels and the entire district, began Sunday, March 13, with two additional concerts Saturday, March 19, and Thursday, March 24. The concerts are free and open to the public.

The performances bring the top musicians from all schools to "all-star" concerts, organized by high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, under the umbrella of the district's Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) program. Orchestras represent middle and high schools, while the elementary program also includes an honor choir.

"If you want to see what fantastic musical talent there is in the San Diego community, attend one of these free concerts," said Russ Sperling, director of the VAPA program. "These are incredably hard working indiviuals, ranging in age from 8-18. Many of them will have music as a lifelong avocation; many of them will become professional musicians."

After auditioning for an opportunity to perform, the students spend weeks preparing for the concerts. For many, it's the first time they've met their fellow musicians and performed together.

"San Diego has a very rich and proud arts heritage, and a community that has a very solid supports of the arts," he said. "This is an opportunity to not only celebrate these hard-working individuals, but see what kind of homegrown talent we have in San Diego."

Two of the performers in the high school orchestra are Clifton McKenzie, a tuba player from Pt. Loma High, and Lincoln High's Robert Navarro. Navarro spends time conducting the Lincoln band in addition to playing tenor sax.

McKenzie will attend the University of Michigan in the fall on a musical scholarship.

"When I first came to high school I was very lazy and stressed out. I almost quit band because I was afraid to give up my weekends," said McKenzie. "But when I was convinced to stay and give it one more shot I found myself through music and know I’m a completely different person. I have a better work ethic, I feel happy all the time and I have a different outlook."

Motivating students to learn and succeed is what schools are all about, said Sperling.

"Many of our students find their path to college and the future through music," he said. "As educators, we strive to find something in every child that helps them toward a great future. For these kids, music and the arts is that path."

The concert schedule: high school, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 13, Jacobs Music Center Copley Symphony Hall, 1245 Seventh Avenue in downtown San Diego; middle school, 7 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Brown Chapel, Pt. Loma Nazarene University, 3901 Lomaland Drive in Pt. Loma; and the elementary school honor orchestra and choir, 7 p.m., Thursday, March 24, also at Brown Chapel, Pt. Loma Nazarene University, 3901 Lomaland Drive in Pt. Loma.

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