Take Note Youth Band, which is currently accepting applications for its 2016-17 season, has become a shining example of music education for youth as well as a reminder that San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department promotes more than just greenspaces and physical fitness.
The band is comprised of local teens who are interested in gaining real-world experience on some of San Antonio’s biggest stages – Arneson River Theater, Market Square, and the River Walk, among others – while they’re still in middle and high school.
“These students have the opportunity to perform at many citywide events,” said Parks and Recreation Program Manager Mona Lisa Montgomery. “SA has a very strong creative economy and it’s important to show these students the opportunities and keep them here.”
Montgomery is responsible for opening doors to the development of young people’s artistic and cultural creativity and promoting healthy minds as much as healthy bodies.
“Students learn so many skill sets for choosing a career as a musician,” Montgomery said. “Some don’t choose that, but a majority have gone on to succeed in their own bands, in musical education, and have even competed at the national level.”
Applications for this year’s band are due this Friday, Sept. 16 by 4:30 p.m. and can be found online here.
“The application is open to everyone, and the initial round (consists of) supplying a CD or DVD of your present musical talents,” Montgomery said. “From there we (the music committee) evaluate through live auditions and determine the potential of each musician.”
This year the group is opening up eight to nine positions for students who primarily play rhythm section instruments such as bass, guitar, drums, keys, as well as vocalists. However, all musicians are welcome to apply, provided they are ready for an experience that could change their musical careers.
“You will be rehearsing twice a week and performing at least once a month,” Montgomery said. “It is a big commitment for the student and the family.”
Take Note is not your average garage rock band, Montgomery said, but a professionally trained troupe of talented and dedicated young people who are educated and guided by local professionals who share acumen beyond the musical realm.
“They learn professional skills like how to play for certain audiences and how to dress – all that goes into the performance,” she said. “They are exposed to the gamut – rock, Latin jazz, Tejano, R&B. You don’t always have the opportunity to choose the genre and need to be able to play all types that come your way.”
Local keys player Richard Valdez is an alumnus of Take Note and credits the experiences with the band as pivotal to his present day success as a musician.
“Working with Take Note taught me a lot about not just how to play, but how to be in a band – everything from setting up my own gear to understanding sound engineering,” Valdez said. “It’s really (about) how to be a professional musician – what to do, what to say, how to get the higher profile shows.”
Valdez had the privilege of working with Mark Martinez, former keyboardist for late-great Emilio Navaira, who recorded songs with Selena Quintanilla, among others, and received the blessing of years of experience passed down from his time in the music scene.
“Every day was more a hands-on lesson that guided us, while also allowing us to guide ourselves,” Valdez said. “When we would reach our walls, instructors were there to push us forward and get past these obstacles.”
For Valdez, his three years as a member of the group hit close to home. “You’re learning how to be in a group with almost complete strangers,” he explained. “You learn to develop the relationship with other members and it almost felt like we’re family.”
His time with that family funneled Valdez into the group Creciendo Fuerte, who won the SA Current’s Showcase Award for “Best Alternative Latino Group” in 2015. “I joined them about a year ago, and a majority of members were from Take Note,” Valdez said. “Through the experiences in Take Note we were able to understand what it means to be a musician and form this group.”
The band, which plays mostly Latin alternative covers, built its fan base from performances at Market Square, which were similar to the gigs they played during their time with Take Note. Valdez has since left the group and decided to pursue some of his own personal musical interests through the name El Richard, and also plays in a Journey Tribute band called Eclipse: A Tribute to Journey.
Those interested in more information and applying for Take Note can click here, or contact Mona Lisa Montgomery at (210) 207-3132.