Written by Phil Cerroni
By Tracy Begland
A record breaking 19 Coppell High School band students earned spots in All-State Band.
“Nineteen is the highest number of students we have ever had qualify for the 5A Texas All-State Band,” CHS head band director Scott Mason said. “I feel very proud to be part of such an unbelievable program.”
About 50,000 of the state's 250,000 high school band students tried out for the 300-member All-State Bands.
Coppell students making the All-State Band for the first time are Alisha Punjwani, English horn; Harrison Haas, contra bassoon; Annabell Kim, flute; Hannah Thorp, B-flat Clarinet; Cejay Zhu, B-flat Clarinet; Clint Blackwell, contra bass clarinet; Matt Smith, alto saxophone; Anthony Stanley, French horn; Joey Pye, trumpet; and Shane Murray, trombone.
Students earning spots in the All-State Band for the second time include MadiZill, alto clarinet; Aidan McGraw, bass clarinet; Brandy Sun, flute; Harini Suresh, oboe; Jason Fang, bassoon; Chris Lugo, French horn; Jonathan Bolton, trumpet; and Mark LeGros, tuba.
Cinnie Lin achieved this state level accomplishment on the E-flat clarinet for the third time.
The road to All-State began last summer when students first got their music.
“We start in August preparing students on their All State Music, and offer master classes throughout the year,” Mason said.
Last fall a series of auditions began with tryouts for either all-region band or all-region orchestra in 28 regions across the state. In December, 114 Coppell students made the Region 20 North Zone All-Region Band, which includes some 20 5A high schools in the Dallas area.
Forty seven of these CHS students went on to qualify for the area competition. Competing with students from north Houston, Austin, Waco and the Dallas area, nineteen CHS musicians were named All-State Band members on Jan. 12. They will attend the Texas Music Educators Association All-State Band /Choir/Orchestra clinic and concert Feb. 13-16 in San Antonio where they will audition one last time for placement in one of the two bands or two orchestras.
Mason, who has seen more than 200 CHS students make All-State Band during his 22 years at Coppell, said that the All State process provides students with the opportunity to reach for a very high standard as musicians.
Junior MadiZill, a two-time All-Stater said the best part is getting to perform with outstanding musicians and creating an amazing concert in only four days.
“I’ve learned so much about becoming a better musician throughout the whole All-State process,” Zill said.
Senior Chris Lugo, who has also qualified twice, said this achievement required practice time of up to three to four hours per day.
“The best part is being rewarded for all my hard work and the time I put into preparing for my audition. It is a very nerve wracking and stressful experience, and I take great pride in this honor,” Lugo said.
Trombonist Shane Murray agreed.
“Making All-State is one of the greatest accomplishments one can do in high school band, and I knew the work it took to get there would make me a better musician,” Murray said.
In addition to daily two hour practices, Murray had to skip a family ski trip to be ready for the early January audition.
Senior Aidan McGraw said he enjoyed the rehearsals and performance with the All-State Band.
“You are surrounded by the best young musicians in Texas, and being able to be a part of that group is amazing,” McGraw said. Next fall he plans to play in the University of Texas at Austin Marching Band.
For band director Mason, the All-State process provides a rare opportunity.
“I see most of my students in large group settings, so I enjoy getting to work with students one on one as they prepare for their auditions,” Mason said. “I am very fortunate to teach in a school district where the students are so dedicated and hard working.”
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:31
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The City took a step toward redeveloping the Andrew Brown park system on Jan. 22 at the Coppell City Council meeting. The Council unanimously voted to approve a conceptual master plan for the 200-acre park system.
The park system is made up of three zones: West and Central, which boast diamond and field sports and trails; and Andrew Brown East, which includes the Kid Country play area, the Coppell Aquatic and Recreation Center and various sport fields.
According to a memo sent to the Council from City staff, the park system is one of the most visited in the city. Because of its popularity, the parks have suffered some wear over the years.
Among updates included in the conceptual plan are a “Central Heart” that would offer a lawn for community-wide events and reshaping the existing lakes. Other developments include family gathering areas and improvements to the field sport areas.
“The purpose is to put some fresh ideas together and to continue to best serve your community and make the park as versatile and dynamic as we can,” Philip Neely, an architect with Dunaway Associates, said. “What we’ve tried to do is hear from the community and hear from leaders.”
While the plan is still preliminary and the Council would still have to choose and hire a contractor for the work, the project budget is estimated to cost about $26 million, according to documents from the master plan.
“This is a fine piece of work,” Councilman Marvin Franklin said at the meeting. “This has really got the ‘wow’ factor and you seemed to have solved a lot of problems. You’ve enhanced the aesthetics and made a statement and made it consistent with the branding effort we’ve talked about for many months.”
The Coppell Parks and Recreation Department also recommended approval of the conceptual plan.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:31
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
The Museum of the American Railroad proudly debuted with pomp and circumstance during the 1963 Texas State Fair and for the past 50 years it has been a staple of Fair Park in Dallas. But the times are changing. For more than a year, the massive exhibits that make up the museum have been moving northward to Frisco.
“It was a very difficult decision for us to leave Fair Park,” said Bob LaPrelle, CEO of the museum. “Our board and staff agonized over the decision for nearly a year. However, the City of Frisco made us an offer that met all of our strategic planning guidelines, and we just couldn’t refuse. But to leave Dallas where the museum had its own history for so many years, and to also face the necessity of moving such large, massive objects was a big decision.
“The museum has one of the finest collections of railroad history in the country, which includes 40 pieces of rolling stock: locomotives and railcars. We also had to move two historic buildings: a circa 1900 railroad depot, and a control tower building for the rail yards. In addition, there is a very large collection of smaller, three dimensional artifacts like lanterns, and then all the ephemeral items like time schedules, plans and diagrams from the railroad operations. Everything will go to Frisco. In fact the last thing to go will be the rail and track materials that will be pulled up from our old site. Those will be used for future expansion.
“The train museum needs a lot more space than the acre and a half we were accorded at Fair Park. The museum will be on 15 acres in Frisco, so it is really a great opportunity for us to expand all of our programming and exhibits.
“Our mission is to teach a very important aspect of American history to future generations,” LaPrelle said. “You cannot separate the history of the railroad from the history of our nation. They grew together over the past 250 years. There is a great story to be told about the expansion across the Mississippi and then westward to California. We do that with the artifacts in our collection.
“By moving to a larger venue, we will be able to display things in a more visitor-friendly manner. We will be able to develop more educational programs for area schools. We dovetail to their curriculums to help teach cultural, social and technology related subjects not only from an historical standpoint but also in light of current and future technologies of rail and what that means for transportation.
“The final pieces of rolling stock, our two really large steam locomotives, should be in Frisco by May. We hope to do a soft museum opening in early summer. This would allow select pieces to be open for tours including the Pullman sleeping car, a dining car built in the 1930s and some of the other rail passenger cars.
“In the future, we will launch a major building campaign to fund the next phase of construction to create the more permanent museum buildings that will house the smaller pieces in the collection. It may take several years to raise the funds to build something like that. We basically have the footprint established on the master plan for our site.
“This is an exciting time for the museum. Thanks to Frisco and the local railroad companies like BNSF, we are about to launch something that will be great for North Texas.”
To learn more about the Museum of the American Railroad, visit www.historictrains.org .
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:30
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Students at Nimitz High School in Irving have been helping people file their income taxes for the last nine years – a free service offered by the IRS through a program known as VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance).
“Back in 2003, the IRS contacted our accounting department about this service, wanting to see if anybody would get involved,” said Bernard Manale, advisor to the Nimitz Student Council and a special education teacher at the school.
“The kids get community service hours and it goes on their resume, plus when they graduate, they get credit for participating.
“I decided it would be worthwhile.”
Manale estimates that 100 students have assisted in completing at least 500 tax forms since the partnership began.
“These kids have to go through some rigorous training to understand the policies and guidelines,” he continued. “And they’re held to strict standards of confidentiality and ethics.”
At this time, VITA is only available at Nimitz High School within the Irving ISD. While most of the participants have been Nimitz students, a few young people from Irving and Mac Arthur High Schools have also come through the program – along with a handful of adults.
“I’m gratified if we have 8 – 12 people that stick with it through tax season,” Manale added. “Some of them drop out after the first training class, maybe because they’re overwhelmed by the volume of material, and the speed that they have to learn it all.”
A key factor in their success and follow-through, Manale believes, is the encouragement of accounting teachers like Vickie Garrett at Nimitz.
“Every year we have two or three of her students join us,” said Manale.
But knowledge of accounting is not really required for VITA certification. Students work with a software program that works up the IRS forms for them. They are taught what questions to ask and what factors to look for in each taxpayer’s paperwork – and the program does the math for them. Students may elect to become certified at a basic level, or to get additional training to work with military families or foreign students.
And the community has endorsed it. While there are always those customers who become upset when their calculated return doesn’t meet their expectations, there are even more customers who are grateful for the free service. Repeat customers include Nimitz families and a good number of school district employees. Manale added that the Nimitz students, many of them bilingual, have frequently been asked to work at sites beyond the high school so that they can serve as interpreters.
“I’ve seen some of our students continue to work in this field after high school graduation,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of students that have gotten jobs with tax preparation services – those so-called ‘tax in a box’ places. And we’ve had students who began with us in their sophomore year and stayed with us through their senior year.
“I call those success stories.”
Frances Valdes is a sophomore, age 15, just beginning her training program for basic VITA certification. The Nimitz student is a student council member who recently moved to Irving from Santa Clarita, CA.
“My Dad used to take those [paid tax preparation service] classes,” she said. “I think it’s valuable to know about taxes because that’s something that you don’t learn in high school – but it’s going to continue to be important after high school.
“It’s not so much about the math, to me. It’s more about understanding every person’s situation, and how you apply the rules in each case. For example, say there’s a single mother with a kid – maybe that’s a situation that makes the tax picture more complicated. But I think I’ll be good at this because I can understand those details, and I’m a quick learner.”
Students will be available to assist at Nimitz High School, 100 W. Oakdale, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., beginning Feb. 2 and continuing through tax season. Manale urges taxpayers to bring a photo ID, all 2012 income documentation and social security number if they wish to use the service.
To learn more about VITA: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers .
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:29
Written by Phil Cerroni
Student artists across Texas in grades K-12 take notice: It’s time to start preparing your entries for the 2013 Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest.
The contest is open to all students in public, private or home schools. Entry deadline is March 31 each year.
Contest rules, guidelines, entry information and details about the contest can be found at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishart.
Major support for the Texas division of the contest is provided by the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, which makes it possible for the top three Texas entries in each grade level to win cash prizes. Additional support for the contest is provided by the William E. Armentrout Foundation, Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and Fish Flops®.
The Texas first-place winner in grades 10-12 wins $1,000; second place $750; third place $500. Prizes in the 4-6 and 7-9 grade levels are $100 for first; $75 for second; $50 for third.
Funding from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic also provides a travel allowance for first-place Texas winners and their families to attend the national State-Fish Art Expo, which will be held July 12 at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, GA. Texas winners will compete with winners from other states for national awards at the Expo.
One outstanding piece of artwork each year is selected for the Art of Conservation Award, and a commemorative stamp featuring the artwork is produced for sale. Proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to fund conservation projects.
Educators who wish to have their students enter the contest can download the free “State-Fish Art Contest Lesson Plan” at www.statefishart.com. The interdisciplinary curriculum includes lessons and activities, a species identification section profiling each state fish, a glossary and student worksheets.
Located in Brooklyn Center, MN, Wildlife Forever is a non-profit multi-species conservation organization dedicated to conserving America’s wildlife heritage. Working at the grassroots level, Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states, committing millions of dollars to “on-the-ground” efforts. Wildlife Forever supports habitat restoration and enhancement, land acquisition, research and management of fish and wildlife populations.
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:28
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