From left: Yissell Castro, Maddyn Hartzog and Gerald Pineda

“I was a little nervous,” Lufkin High School senior Gerald Pineda said. “I wanted to get to state. It’s one of my goals as a high school musician — the greatest honor. My palms were sweaty; and my body temperature increased. I was prepared for the audition. I didn’t want to screw up my last chance. I dominated. I knew I did well.”

And do well, he did. Gerald, along with Lufkin High School students Maddyn Hartzog and Yissell Castro, are among the more than 70,000 who entered the Texas Music Educators competition and were chosen to perform in one of the 18 state ensembles.  For Lufkin High School to have three students chosen is not necessarily surprising but certainly a distinguished honor for the students and school.

Texas Music Educators Association sponsors the Texas All-State competition. The process begins throughout the state in auditions hosted by 33 TMEA Regions. Individual musicians perform selected music for a panel of judges who rank each instrument or voice part. From this ranking, a select group of musicians advances from their Region to compete against musicians from other areas in eight TMEA Area competitions. The highest-ranking musicians judged at the TMEA Area competitions qualify to perform in a TMEA All-State music group. Only the top 2.6% of musicians who initially audition become All-State musicians.

Yisselle Castro and Maddyn Hartzog, members of the Lufkin High School Choir, will perform with the Texas All-State Mixed Choir in San Antonio on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Henry B. González Convention Center as part of the 2024 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention.

Yisselle and Maddyn were chosen for this prestigious honor through a competitive process at District, Region, and Area levels. Yisselle and Maddyn both sing in Kantorei, Lufkin High School’s Advanced Mixed Choir, under the direction of Nicole Stewart who is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, a 14,000+ member organization headquartered in Austin. This being both of their first time to perform as a member of a TMEA All-State organization.

“Only three Chairs are chosen for the All-State Mixed Choir from our Area, so we are so excited that Lufkin has two of the three,” Nicole Stewart said.

Gerald Pineda earned 1st chair alto saxophone at the TMEA Area D competition and was named a member of the TMEA All-State 5a Symphonic Band. Gerald is a Senior at Lufkin High School. He will perform with the TMEA Texas All-State 5A Symphonic Band in San Antonio on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in the Lila Cockrell Theater at the Henry B. González Convention Center as part of the 2024 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention.

Gerald wants to attend Texas A&M University majoring in Mechanical Engineering and would like to play in the Aggie band as they also have symphonic bands. Since sixth grade he has played alto sax. He enjoys working with his dad welding, video games, practicing his instrument, sleeping and hanging out with friends.

“When I got the music, I spent an hour every day non-stop to better hone my skills,” Gerald said. “It increases your confidence.  Keep practicing—make sure you get the minor details and relax if you’re stressed about it. Don’t overthink it and go with the flow.”

When asked who he would like to thank along this journey, he mentions his mom and dad for bringing him to school and waiting for him to dedicate time to his instrument, and Allyssa Kitchens, a former all-state band member. He also said Lufkin High School symphonic band director Brandon Beavers.

“I didn’t receive any private lessons,” Gerald said. “It was Mr. Beavers. He was tough on me. He always pointed out the minor details and pushed me to be my best.”

Maddyn Hartzog is also a senior and wants to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in nursing. Although she’s not majoring in voice, she would like to still participate in choir as an extracurricular activity when she gets to college.

At the regional competition, Maddyn said it was the best she could have done but that the sight reading was challenging.

It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever seen in our entire lives,” she said. “I worked so hard. I went slow and did the best I could. It has an awful rhythm!”

Maddyn enjoys walking dogs in her neighborhood, drawing, singing and baking. She said she draws her inspiration for singing from her grandma. She also wanted to thank Mrs. Stewart, her choir teacher, and Mrs. Cole, her pianist, who were both always available with lots of rehearsals.

Yissell Castro is a sophomore and would like to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in astronomy or music.

“I was very, very nervous before I auditioned,” she said.  She also agreed that sight reading was difficult. “What on earth did I just read?”

She is learning how to play piano, which helps with a lot of things like her singing, she said. She wanted to thank Mrs. Stewart and Ms. Cole and her vocal coach Sarah, and her parents and brother for hearing her practice.

Maddyn and Gerald had advice to offer other students who might want to compete in choir and band.

“Practice and get started as soon as you get the music,” said Maddyn. “Go to a camp if you can.”

“It’s ok to ask for help,” Gerald said. “Practice efficiently, it’s how you practice. Practice something specific instead of just going over and over it. Learn something specific technically. Take your time.”

Great advice from outstanding musical students.

All three students will be recognized with a state send off at Lufkin High School on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 3:30 p.m.