Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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Seguin ISD, Community Rally Behind Fine Arts Programs 

Seguin is alive with the sound of music once more. For the fourth consecutive year, Seguin ISD has been named one of the Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). 

The NAMM Foundation award recognizes the work of teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who contribute to making music education well-rounded. Around 700 school districts across the country received the award for the 2021-22 academic year. 

In Seguin ISD, the music program is indeed well-rounded from the beginning of elementary school through high school. All seven elementary schools within the district have a certified music teacher, and every student in elementary school participates in a music class. The middle schools offer band, choir, and mariachi, along with additional opportunities in music theater. These programs extend into high school, where students can also take classical guitar, a dual-credit music appreciation/composition class, and a new course for the upcoming 2022-23 school year: piano. 

The mariachi program began about eight years ago. It originated as a middle school program but has been expanded to the high school level. 

“Seguin High School is over 100 years old,” Seguin ISD Director of Fine Arts Marc Telles says, “and [the program] has been a part of the community for that long, because of that it has impacted many generations here in Seguin. Now, we have cultural music like mariachi and so it’s evolved but it’s still been a huge impact on the community and the students.” 

Impact on Students 

Approximately 60% of Seguin students are enrolled in a music course, and educators have seen an impact on students both academically and emotionally. 

Keith Robinson is a music teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, where he has taught for 15 years. 

“I would say there are many studentswho would not have darkened the door-step of this school if it weren’t for the fine arts curriculum,” Robinson says. 

Robinson was just like one of those students. He loved his art class, and as he entered high school, he fell in love with band. He has seen his own students have the same experience. 

“I had a parent this year talk about her son. He really struggled and had some developmental issues, but he was just a bright, sweet child. She said, ‘Mr. Robinson, the only reason that we have stayed at this school is because of you and the P.E. teacher.’ He just loves being in music, and he was part of my after-school program, Jefferson Drum Company, a percussion ensemble. He just loves drumming.” 

Not only is there an academic impact when students find their passion early in elementary school, but also there is an emotional impact. When these influences take hold at an early age, it can carry through to high school and beyond. 

“We keep getting this feedback not only about our beautiful spaces, but also our kids,” says Dr. Samuel Parrott, Seguin high school band director. “[We hear] your kids are the politest, your kids are the most welcoming, your kids are the most inviting people, and they’re helpful. I don’t know if every child gets to hear that every day. I’m not sure every child gets to hear that they are this beautiful person who has helped someone else out.” 

Students in Seguin ISD’s fine arts programs have the opportunity to build strong relationships with their teachers. Unlike with core courses, they will likely have the same teachers in their music programs for several years. 

“These kids have longevity with the same people over an extended period of time,” Parrott says. “Their elementary school music teachers are with them throughout their entire academic career. That’s six years of the same teacher, giving them the same love and attention that they need. When they get to middle school, they’re not just seeing their middle school director—they’re seeing their high school directors and their elementary teachers come to these performances.” 

Parrott explains that the impact Seguin ISD’s fine arts programs have on students can influence career paths as well. “So many of them have chosen to pursue music as a profession, whether it be music, education, or performance. We see that these kids thrive in this environment.” 

With such a drive and passion from students within these programs, attendance is nearly a non-issue, and many students sign on for extra commitments, such as after-school rehearsals or marching band performances. 

With such driven students, the impact is also felt by the teachers. 

Impact on Teachers 

In any career, plans and dreams sometimes shift. Robinson initially wanted to stay a band director for as long as he could, but once he found himself in elementary music education, he was hooked. He has stayed in elementary music for 28 years, and he is still in that position despite being eligible for retirement. 

“I have to say, teaching elementary music has really just changed my life in an amazing way that I never could have dreamed of when I was going through undergrad,” Robinson says. 

As with all teachers, Robinson’s professional experience was also rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic during spring break of 2020. Once classes returned to in-person the following school year, Robinson realized how much he had missed interaction with students. 

“I was doing these strange videos [lessons] from my house and trying that out and not seeing kids at all,” Robinson said. “And then we finally got back to some face to face, as well as some digital teaching, and that was a big aha! moment for me like, ‘Wow! This really is a huge part of who I am and something that I would miss.’ And I did miss it that spring semester. It has totally changed my life, and I’m very grateful for that.” 

For Telles, the Seguin community has made a huge impact on his educational career. 

“I’ve been in several different districts, and one of the reasons I chose to come here was that it was a one high school town,” Telles says. “When the community rallies behind one mascot, it just completely changes the vibe of a program.” 

Check out Seguin High School’s Mariachi Matador performance from the 2015 Seguin ISD Holiday Open House on the Seguin ISD YouTube channel or by clicking this link:

Community Reach 

Community has been integral to Seguin ISD’s musical success. The community voted to approve a new performing arts center five years ago. On top of that, Telles  said performance turnout is often large with families and friends in attendance, as well as school board members and the superintendent.  

A key player in building and sustaining community support has been Seguin ISD Superintendent Dr. Matthew Gutierrez. 

“I’m really appreciative of what Seguin provides to our students and for our programs,” Telles says. “Not just financially but just the overall support [by] having upper administration and school board members attending events. They’re constantly around and engaged in what the students are doing, and that speaks volumes about the administrative level of Seguin and their support.” 

The excitement for performances—whether it be choir or halftime shows—extends beyond the parents of children in the program to friends and neighbors. Students will also go to see one another’s performances, Parrott says, adding to that sense of a strong community. Students are engaged in events even if they are not direct participants. 

“The community is so much broader than just those outside of our [school] walls,” Parrott said. “It’s everyone else inside [those walls] as well.” 

Parrott also says Seguin ISD often has a staff choir, and even with the challenges of COVID-19, he still had teachers wanting to participate. 

The Next Generation of Music Educators 

The Seguin ISD music teachers are also laying a foundation for continued music education in the district by mentoring student teachers.  

Whether they will teach in Seguin ISD or elsewhere, student teachers are a big part of Seguin ISD’s music program because they help set up a bright future for fine arts academics as a whole. Robinson gives student teachers some important advice. 

“I always like to tell my student teachers: ‘It’s going to be OK. I think it can be overwhelming—especially initially—because your brain is just thinking of all the worst-case scenarios.’ I try to make it fairly user-friendly for my student teachers so that they’re just taking a little bit of responsibility [at the beginning]. Then, by the end of their nine weeks, they are fully teaching.” 

As student teachers seek more experience and knowledge, Parrott says the important thing is for them to take opportunities as they arise. 

“You’ll see that some will want to step back and say, ‘Well, I’m not ready for something yet,’ but whenever you do have that opportunity, [you should] step forward and say, ‘Well, I’m going to take on that; I’m going to take this chance and see what happens,’” Parrott says. “Whether it’s a failure or success doesn’t really matter at that point—it’s that you’ve got the experience in the moment.”  

Throughout the years, Seguin ISD has impacted the lives of many students and educators through its music program, giving a bright future to music education and the realm of fine arts in general. Regardless of where the students go from here, the experience and opportunity are irreplaceable for them. And with no signs of slowing down, the possibilities are endless for the Seguin ISD music program and where it can go.  


Author: Jack Densmore | Photos courtesy of Seguin ISD