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Las Cruces High School has state’s honor orchestra

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The Las Cruces High School Orchestra has been selected as the New Mexico Music Educators Association’s (NMMEA) 2020 Honor Orchestra.

The 11-member LCHS Orchestra performed a 30-minute concert at this year’s All State competition at the University of New Mexico’s Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque as part of their selection. The students also participated in NMMEA’s 2020 All State Music Festival.

“It’s a lot of pressure and those kids rose to the occasion,” LCHS Orchestra Director Jennifer Rogers said. “They were incredible,” she said, adding in her Facebook page that “their performance warmed my heart and fueled my passion as a music educator.”

“The LCHS Orchestra is truly one of the premiere music programs in New Mexico,” Las Cruces Public Schools Instruction, Content Specialist for K-12 Fine Arts Joseph Flores said in a letter to the NMMEA. “The LCHS Orchestra program has garnered much recognition and is certainly representative of the many fine music programs that we have in LCPS,” Flores said, adding that “Ms. Rogers is truly one of our state’s finest teachers, leaders and mentors.”
 “The entire school community, staff, parents and students join in celebrating the success of the LCHS Honors Orchestra program,” LCHS Principal Michelle A. Ronga said in her letter to NMMEA.

Rogers stood backstage during the honors concert, allowing her students “a lot of musical independence” to set the tempo, style and phrasing for the performance. “Let them create the music instead of me,” Rogers said. “It was their honors concert. I want them to be independent learners.”

The selection marks the second time since 2015 that LCHS has been selected as the NMMA honors orchestra. It’s an even more remarkable feat considering that, under NMMEA rules, a school can’t submit an audition tape to be considered for three years after being chosen. (Centennial High School of Las Cruces was the 2019 NMMEA honors orchestra.)

“We have a lot of strong programs in Las Cruces,” said Rogers.

LCHS’ Honors Orchestra concert included “Concerto for Two Violas,” by Georg Philipp Telemann, featuring Jessica Barrio and Leah Welsh on viola; “Oh, Lady Be Good,” featuring Bert L. Ligon’s arrangement of the song by George and Ira Gershwin; “Primavera Protena,” with Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement of the piece by Astor Pizzolla, and featuring Kevin Wilson on the violin; and “Clear Sight Rhapsody for Piano and String Orchestra,” written by 2019 LCHS graduate Jonathan Chavez, who performed a piano solo during the piece as an alumni member of the orchestra. Chavez is now studying composition and piano at Texas Tech University, Rogers said.

Joining Barrio, Welsh, Chavez and Wilson in the LCHS Chamber Orchestra are Yesenia Borrego, Julia Fernald and Isabel Shu, violin; Nicholas Hernandez and Verity Summers, viola; Katherine Krizek, cello; and Pierce Leachman, bass.

"Ms. Rogers is not only a great teacher and conductor but a mentor to her students, she pushes her students so they reach their potential," said Denise Welsh, whose granddaughter, Leah Welsh, is a member of the LCHS Chamber Orchestra and 2020 NMMEA Honor Orchestra.  “The orchestra program at Las Cruces High School is exceptional, which is evident by the number of orchestra students from LCHS who go to state and make Honors Orchestra each year. I am truly thankful for the support from the administration to make this a successful program that can make dreams come true for their students.” 

Rogers is a LCHS graduate and performed on the violin and viola in the same music room in which she is now teaching students. Rogers taught music at Picacho (U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small was one of her middle school band students) and Vista middle schools for five years before coming to LCHS 15 years ago. She has a BA in music education from New Mexico State University. Rogers was recognized as the Southwest District NMMEA music educator of the year in both 2014 and 2016 and was chosen as the New Mexico American String Teachers Association teacher of the year in 2018.

Now in her 20th year of teaching, “it’s the greatest job,” Rogers said. “You make a living wage and you make a difference. Music opens doors and gives kids opportunities to find themselves, to find something they love to do and do it well.”

At LCHS, Rogers said she has “outstanding students. It’s really easy to teach kids who want to be your classroom.”

LCHS is also the only Las Cruces high school with a mariachi program, which Rogers also directs.

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