Over the past years, ANS’ music department has seen several changes. One ever-changing aspect is that every year, the make-up of the ANS Concert Band changes, with veteran students graduating and new ones taking their seats—but each musician leaves a permanent mark, and leaves with something permanently marked within them.
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One of the current musicians of the ANS Concert Band—and one who’s been involved in music the longest—is Valeria Alfaro, the Band’s clarinetist and drummer.
Alfaro’s been playing music at ANS for almost six years. Now, as a Senior nearing graduation, she looks back on her years of experience practicing and performing—not only clarinet and drums, but also guitar and singing—and shares what she’s learned and everything it’s meant for her.
How did you start playing music?
At the beginning of 7th grade, I was just coming to ANS from Honduras, so I didn’t get to choose what my schedule would look like. The school chose for me, so first semester ended up being Art, and second semester was Instrumental Music. So at first, I didn’t really want to play music—actually, I wasn’t interested in it at all. But then something changed. Over time, I just started liking it; I started playing my clarinet and grew attached to it, and developed a big passion for music actually.
From there, what was your journey like?
My journey actually started slow. I started only with the clarinet, and I wasn’t exactly good immediately, but I’d say I picked it up pretty fast. We were only like four or five people in the band—just my 7th grade classmates—but eventually more people started joining music, and the small group fused with the older, bigger group, and at some point we were a really big, cohesive band. That’s when the best events were. Later, I also started liking the drums, and it was similar to when I started with the clarinet: I also wasn’t interested in drums to begin with. One day, my friends and I just said “Hey, y’all wanna learn drums after school?” So we did, and that’s when I noticed “Oh, I’m actually good at drums.” And that’s how I got here.
What are your favorite memories with the Concert Band?
I have two particular memories that are very special and important for me, with the band. One of them was the AASCA Music Festival, when I was in 9th grade. We went to a school in Tegucigalpa, and we played with a huge band on a beautiful stage, and we learned some pretty hard songs actually. We also got to play just us, just the ANS Concert Band, on that stage, to share with all the other schools, and also got to see the other schools perform individually for us as well. The second memory that is really important for me was the Valentine’s Day Concert, which happened just before the pandemic. We sold tickets ourselves and ended up being sold out, and the venue we played in was completely full, and people were having fun, and the songs we played were ones we chose and were pretty fun too. Overall, it made for a beautiful memory.
What do you like about each of your instruments?
As I said before, my first instrument was actually the clarinet, and at first I didn’t exactly want to play a woodwind. I had the idea that I wanted to play the violin for some reason—I really don’t know why—but then Mr. Spiro let us try a bunch of instruments and I was alright with the clarinet and I remember also the trombone, but I chose the clarinet. My friend was also choosing clarinet, so I thought “Okay, I won’t be alone in the learning process.” It’s a really nice instrument. Once you learn the technicalities like your embouchure and the names of the notes, it’s yours to play, and you can play whatever you want. It’s a really awesome instrument and it sounds really pretty with any song. My second instrument was the guitar. I started learning the guitar because I wasn’t able to get into Concert Band that year because of my schedule issues, so I ended up in Guitar I instead. But I also thought it’d be nice to learn because at the time, my uncle was learning too, and he even gifted me a guitar, so I thought “Oh okay, I can learn this and it’s gonna be fun.” So at this point, I know some songs, but I don’t consider myself completely fluent in that instrument. But it’s a nice instrument to begin with—in order to learn notes, rhythms, etc. Finally, my last instrument was the drums, which I already spoke about before: my friends and I were just casually playing drums in the band room after school, and I noticed I was good, so I stuck with it. And since I also have a passion for rock music, I could connect with it well, and I thought “This is awesome, I love it, I can play rock songs.” It’s a really nice instrument. It’s really hard—it’s not for everyone—but once you start, it’s impossible to let it go.
How do you feel when you play in front of an audience?
I used to get nervous during concerts; I would get really anxious. I still get anxious, but now it’s a lot more fun. The feeling is like adrenaline—when you know you’re about to go up and show your everything and show people “I know how to play this instrument.” It’s just an amazing feeling. I just love that about playing instruments: showing everyone what you know and showing them “I can do this. I’m good at this. This is what I do.”
What does the Concert Band mean to you?
Band is really special to me. I have made friends through it—a lot of friends, actually, some of my closest friends are in the band. And some of the former Seniors that were in the band are still my friends even after they’ve graduated. I have a lot of nice connections because of it. Also, since we all have this passion for music, we can help each other and we can improve with each other, which is really nice. Also the sense of having a community of people that like something that you like is so welcoming and warm.
Do you have anything to say to someone considering starting music classes?
Music is amazing. If you really want to learn music, or you’re thinking of learning any instrument, do it. That’s the only thing I’ll tell you: Just try it. If you don’t like that particular instrument, you can try another one. There’s like a million instruments, a million opportunities, and every instrument is different, so you just have to find what’s really your passion—what you’re good at. So, yeah. Just try it out.