by Linda Faas
Virgin Valley High School (VVHS) has several teams that practice every day, preparing to play a perfect game. Some gather as early as 7:00 AM, eager to get started. The coach calls them to order, bridling their enthusiasm for only a moment of brief pointers before they are off toward their musical goal line. These young teams of musicians blend their talents into a wonderful stream of sound that multiplies the might of their individual instrument and unifies their purpose into a force that carries them to the conclusion of the melody they play. Soon, with practice, they will play it perfectly!
These teams are the VVHS marching band, jazz band, orchestra, choir, and guitarists, and they are learning as they come together that every musician is an MVP. Under the marvelously talented direction of marching band leader Kendra Graf, and orchestra, guitar, and choir leader Marie Palmer, over 150 VVHS students are mastering individual and team musical talents that are joyful expressions of self.
VVHS has a lot to be proud of in its music program. “They are tremendously compatible, socially and musically,” says Mrs. Graf. “What a joy to work with students who pull together and work so hard to excel.” Graf instructs band students at both VVHS and Charles Hughes Middle School, so she has seen them grow from beginners to accomplished musicians over the 12 years she has taught music in Mesquite.
Last year, VVHS musicians took a student trip to Six Flags in California. It wasn’t just a vacation, they entered a regional competition against high school bands from several states. It was a mind-expanding trip for all. Many had not been far from home; many had not seen the ocean; few had known the excitement of showing what they could do as a musical team. All came home with a proudly-earned new understanding of what it means to be awesome.
Mrs. Palmer’s classes kicked off the 2017-18 school year by preparing for a community event featuring the music and food of Italy. As the choir tuned up to sing That’s Amore, they knew they could pull off a great evening of entertainment to raise funds for their trip in the spring. With great appreciation for the skills of the musicians she directs, Mrs. Palmer will proudly tell you, “They are wonderfully talented.” She continues, “I came here last year, unaware of the ability I would find.” She credits support from Clark County School District visiting instructors and other local music teachers who helped her as she took on her diverse duties as both choir and orchestra leadership.
The jazz band, choir, and orchestra each performed several numbers at the community Spring Fling in March. That event showcased student culinary skills and arts and crafts achievements, as well as the musical accomplishments of VVHS. While Mrs. Graf prepares her band for Homecoming and school concerts, Palmer and her classes anticipate public performances, including their Winter Concert at the Mesquite Community Theatre in December.
“Public performances help kids see that people like what they are doing and appreciate their music.” Several students are so accomplished that they are full-fledged members of the Southern Nevada Symphony Orchestra, which opens its season at the CasaBlanca Showroom on November 11.
All this musical prowess will not be left at the high school door as these musicians graduate. That is the beauty of musical training. While only a few may plan careers directly related to music and music education, every VVHS musician can incorporate their music skills, teamwork, organization, applied mathematics, and much more into their futures. They will know the pure joy of music as they head out to make their mark on the world. Such beautiful music they will make!
Plan to attend VVHS student performances. Please contact Virgin Valley High School at (702) 346-2780 for concert dates and ticket information.