There are many different paths to success, and we often take the paths most traveled with the fewest obstacles. While this may be true of most people, it is certainly not true of Jesse Espinosa, The director of bands at Waltrip High School.
Last October and recently this April, the Waltrip band received back to back sweepstakes awards for receiving superior first division ratings at their UIL competition in all categories including: marching, concert, and site reading.
Not only is this in an incredible feat in and of itself, but the band did this while playing music that soared above their usual difficulty level.
“The students were kind of shocked to hear they had done so well, because we decided to choose music that we didn’t have to play,” said Espinosa.
Not only did the Waltrip band take the road less traveled, but they also did it in the face of adversity.
“We had a very special challenge thrown at us during this season; my assistant director’s baby was born prematurely during the middle of the season,” said Espinosa. “And of course his family comes first so he went home to care for them. So I had to talk with the kids and say ‘hey, we’re going to really have to come together as a unit and we can’t we settle for backing off just because Mr. Laredo isn’t here. In fact, we should step it up.’ ”
And step it up is exactly what the Waltrip band did.
Espinosa saw the entire experience as a method of encouraging growth in his students. With a great emphasis on student leadership and peer to peer coaching the Waltrip band faced the challenge head on and came out on top.
“There’s a lot of peer to peer coaching in our band so we never feel alone and we always have someone to turn to for guidance,” said Jesus Del-Campo, Waltrip drum major and recipient of first chair All State Band for tenor-saxophone. “We are always learning to be better leaders, so we go to camp in the summer and we have training here in the last days of school, along with our average three practices every day.”
“From my perspective it was more of a teaching tool to grow the students musically,” said Espinosa. “I thought, if we don’t win, it’s okay because my hope is next year we will be even better and continue that progress.”
Espinosa often thinks back to when he was a Waltrip trumpet player back in the 1990’s. He attributes the accomplishments of today, to the traditions set in place by his previous band director, Mr. Charlie Stevens.
“After I graduated, I was his assistant for nine years before he retired,” said Espinosa. “Mr. Stevens got us on pace to even start thinking about the UIL circuit, because at the time we were doing a lot of district level type things or our own little festivals. But he really started to push the idea of making our band match up to the other groups out there and so we had to start getting involved with the UIL circuit.”
Espinosa hopes that these recent accomplishments, along with Waltrip’s new facilities bring in more students who are interested in receiving a quality music education.
The music education does more than teach music, according to Espinosa. It molds the entirety of the student and puts them on a path of success in all other facets of their lives.
“I’ve talked with teachers all over the campus and they are very thankful to have so many students in their classrooms that are involved with the program because of the discipline, focus, and concentration that they’re taught,” said Espinosa. “It’s not just about music being something to enhance academics but it’s really right there with it. I was just telling a potential student who says she wants to be a doctor, that there’s a statistic that says 70 percent of medical students are either former or current musicians. And they attribute a lot of their success to what they learned in their music classes.”
One thing is for sure, the Waltrip band has proven themselves capable of creating their own path and taking it all the way to the top.