Wednesday afternoons, when the school is almost empty, 34 students in the advanced jazz band class take over the Glades Middle School music room.
There, students practice under the direction of their teacher Erich Rivero. Songs such as Cry Me a River and Something’s Gotta Give can be heard across the hallways through in the voices of eighth grade students Gaby Rodriguez and Odalys Maria Sanchez, both 13.
Both girls share a dream of becoming professional singers.
For the group and teacher, the class is much more than just a pastime. Seven years ago, the Glades Middle School Concert Jazz Band began participating in national competitions. One of the Jazz Band’s most recent accomplishments is an award it obtained in 2014 as winners of the Mark of Excellence competition presented to them by The Foundation for Music Education.
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They hope to win again this year when awards are announced on Sept. 15.
“In general, it’s not customary to play at such an advanced level in Middle School,” said Rivero. “I think teachers don’t push students enough to reach this level, but at this age they can accomplish a lot.”
Among the most talented students are Ian Muñoz, who plays both the saxophone and clarinet. But other students come to class with no knowledge about music, simple the desire to learn. This was the case with Havana Durango, who was born in Ecuador, and is in the eighth grade.
“I learned to play it here because I wanted to do something with my free time and I took advantage of the classes,” said Durango, who plays the saxophone.
The same thing happened with Luis Peñata, a 12-year-old seventh grader, who started taking drum lessons in school and is now part of the band.
“The teacher is strict because he wants us to be the best,” said Durango.
Rivero graduated in 1996 with a degree in Music Education from Florida International University, where he also studied trumpet under the direction of Jim Hacker and Arturo Sandoval. He has been the band director at American Senior High, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High, Miami Killian High and Coral Reef High School.
Over the past eight years, Rivero has been the music director of Glades Middle School, 9451 SW 64th St. The band, the only one from Florida, has been invited to take part in the 69th annual Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago from Dec. 16-19.
Approximately 17,000 music students, educators and professionals attend the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, which has been held in Chicago since 1946. It’s considered one of the largest instrumental music events in the world to elevate the standards of music education.
The Glades Middle School Concert Jazz Band is already practicing music for the Midwest Clinic. One of the songs they plan to play is titled Sabor a Cuba (Taste of Cuba). At the event, the students will be under the tutelage of renowned music artists such as trumpeter Dan Miller, saxophonists Tom “Bones” Malone and Ed Calle, and pianist Michael Orta.
While band students refine their playing skills, parents and grandparents have taken an active role in raising funds to cover travel expenses.
“This invitation is a great honor for the band and for the school but they need to raise funds to participate in this important event,” said Raquel Reborido, whose grandchildren Isabella and Lucas Menendez, 12 and 11 years old, study in the school and are part of the Glades Middle School Concert Jazz Band.
For more information visit www.gladesbandmiami.com
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