Music program reaching new heights

DOWNEY - From observing the long hours of practice on the football field, many people might assume that high school musicians are solely involved with marching band, but this is certainly not true.The band room at Downey High often goes unnoticed due to its secluded location, but it is where several talented students gather to perfect their skills. With the guidance of Corneliu Olariu, these students devote their time and effort into their passion for music. Olariu is multifariously gifted with his extensive knowledge of music, and he aims to motivate students to be the best musicians that they can possibly be. Every year, the collection of trophies and plaques in the band room expands as new awards are constantly received. This year, Olariu is especially proud of his hardworking students for their accomplishments at the Folsom Jazz Festival. Jazz I, the top group at Downey, won second in the 4A division with high scores from the three judges: 92, 94, and 97. This feat placed them in the finals for the first time since Downey first participated in the festival eight years ago. Also, Jazz II won third out of 12 bands in the B division, and the jazz choir won second in the AA division. "It is no surprise that in my last ten years at Downey, the jazz choir performed twice at Carnegie Hall and once at the Jazz at Lincoln Center," said Olariu. "They also won at the inaugural Disney World Jazz Celebration in 2009. The jazz band performed at the Hollywood Bowl opening night in 2006 and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2008." Not only did the jazz band and choir win numerous awards, but three seniors also proved their talent by being accepted to selective honor groups. Angelica Villarreal and Jonathan Arenas are two of only 16 students throughout California who were chosen for the California Band Directors Association (CBDA) All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and Leila Rasas successfully auditioned on euphonium for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Symphonic Band. Rasas, who was also principal euphonium of the CSULA First Chair Honor Band, learned the importance of music through Gary Green of the University of Miami, who served as the conductor of the SCSBOA Symphonic Band. "Mr. Green taught us to give every note its integrity," said Rasas. "This experience changed me as a musician in just three days; it's something that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life." None of these musicians would have had the aforementioned opportunities without the persistent dedication of Olariu, who willingly spends extra hours after school to help them reach their goals. "I take my students to a lot of competitions and workshops around the country because they motivate them to practice more and to work really hard," said Olariu. "I would like to invite the Downey community to attend our concerts to experience the beautiful music we are creating." Rebekah Jin was principal clarinet of the 2011 CSULA First Chair Honor Band and a participant in the 2010 CBDA All-State Symphonic Band.

********** Published: February 17, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 44