Valencia Music Students Score Big at Statewide Competition

Congratulations to Valencia’s music students, who won four of the nine categories at the recent statewide music competition.

Fifty-six students from around the state competed in nine categories, and Valencia music students won first place in four of the nine categories, along with one honorable mention. Valencia student and soprano Miranda Graham won the “female voices” competition; Cristian Rivera won the guitar competition, playing classical guitar; Andrew Kennedy won the jazz category, playing tenor saxophone; Pedro Mujica, on flute, won the woodwinds category; and soprano Ayla Polanco won an honorable mention the “female voices” category.

Each first-place winner receives a $2,000 scholarship to be applied to complete their education at a Florida four-year college or university.

“This is the first time Valencia has had four winners,” said Valencia music professor Alan Gerber, who has served as coordinator for the FSCAA’s artistic competition for the past decade. At this year’s event, the music faculty from Jacksonville University served as the judges.

The event, called the Winter Symposium, is held each year at universities around Florida – and is designed to provide opportunities for music students at the state’s two-year colleges to participate in clinics, seminars, and conferences with music faculty from around the state.

For 27-year-old Miranda Graham, winning first-place in the “female voices” category was affirmation that she has made the right career choice.

A former criminal justice major at the University of Central Florida, Miranda transferred to Valencia and changed her major, she says with a laugh, “when I got tired of ‘Miranda rights’ jokes.”

At the competition, Miranda, who will graduate in May 2018, performed three pieces, including Mozart’s “Ah fuggi il traitor” from “Don Giovanni”, “Love’s Philosophy” by Roger Quilter and “O del mio dolce ardor” from the opera, “Paride ed Elena.” When it was over, she didn’t worry about whether she’d placed, she says, because she knew she nailed it.

“I didn’t care what happened because it was the best I had ever done,” says Miranda, who works part-time at a Longwood mortgage company and is hoping to transfer to Stetson University in DeLand to continue studying music.

While Miranda was confident about her performance in Jacksonville, her fellow Valencia classmate, Andrew Kennedy wasn’t so sure.

Andrew, who plays jazz saxophone, performed three pieces , including “In a Sentimental Mood,” Hank Mobley’s “This I  Dig of You” and “Recordame” by Joe Henderson.

Though Andrew – who already plays jazz in Orlando’s bar scene – felt comfortable with his performance, his confidence waned as he listened to his competitors warm up. “I heard the others and I was almost positive that I did not win,” he says. Besides, he says, “the competition is rather stiff because everyone brings their best stuff.”

Andrew, who hopes to play jazz and become a college music professor, plans to transfer to the University of South Florida after graduating from Valencia in May. The move to Tampa, he says, will enable him to keep his Orlando jazz gigs while in college.  “I’m already living my career goal,” he says, “but on a smaller scale.”

While others may have been nervous, 17-year-old Pedro Mujica wasn’t rattled at all. “As a musician, you audition all the time, so I wasn’t really nervous,” said Pedro. “Besides, I listened to the other musicians and I thought I had a chance to win.”

At the competition, Pedro played “Sentimentale” by Claude Bolling and Carl Reinecke’s flute sonata.

Pedro’s next step, he says, will depend on finances. He has already been accepted to the Berklee College of Music, but if finances are tight, he may instead enroll at Florida State University. As for his career, Pedro wants to either play in an orchestra or earn his master’s degree and teach music at the college level.

Ayla Polanco

Ayla Polanco, who plans to double major in vocal performance and event planning, won an honorable mention at the Jacksonville symposium. That was a thrill for Ayla, who was asked to fill in at the last minute for a classmate who couldn’t make the trip.

Ayla, who couldn’t sleep well the night before the performance, took a power nap, then did jumping jacks and push-ups to prepare herself. “By the grace of God, the power nap worked and I did pretty well,” she says.