Freshman Ayden Garcia warms up on his instrument before band practice starts. He always makes sure to get a few minutes to himself, hooking up his tuner chord to his bell, making sure to perfect his sound before class starts.
Freshman Ayden Garcia warms up on his instrument before band practice starts. He always makes sure to get a few minutes to himself, hooking up his tuner chord to his bell, making sure to perfect his sound before class starts.
Mie Bakuya

From last chair to All-State

Freshman saxophone player makes All-state

He found out about his placement during the All-Region clinic. 

He was laying back in his seat, cradling his saxophone as the band director continued to critique another section about their playing. Freshman Ayden Garcia pulled out his phone, as he had nothing else to do, and decided to check out the TMEA website to see if his chair placement for state was announced. 

To his surprise, he and his friends jumped out their seats when they saw the placement Garcia received. 

Garcia was the only freshman tenor saxophone to make state from Hebron this year. With his quick learning and ability to practice for many hours, Garcia was able to make third chair in the state of Texas. 

Garcia wasn’t some prodigy who learned to play saxophone at an early age; instead, he simply started playing music in sixth grade, similar to most band students. He was persuaded to play saxophone because of his grandfather, who was also a saxophonist, and wanted one of his grandchildren to play the same instrument as him. The Arbor Creek band director, Kimberly Beene, needed a student to play the Tenor saxophone, making Garcia transition from the Alto saxophone to Tenor.

“It wasn’t my choice; it was forced on me,” Garcia said. “[My grandpa] said [it was OK and] to just play whatever saxophone is meant for [me].” 

While making the transition from Alto to Tenor, Garcia was learning at home due to COVID-19. During these times, Garcia had his saxophonist private lesson teacher, Mark Smith, help teach him the basics of playing saxophone over Zoom video calls.

“When I first started lessons with [Garcia], he had no skill at all,” Smith said. “My thought process behind [helping develop] his skill is always ‘What do I need to do to help him to gain the next level of skill needed to accomplish his music?’ He’s a tremendously hard worker [and] he’s been able to overcome a lot of challenges. He is significantly skilled because of all that.”

For the duration of sixth grade, Garcia said he didn’t like band, seeing it more as a chore rather than a hobby. Garcia said he never practiced his instrument in his free time, only playing it when he had to for class.

“It all changed in seventh grade; [I learned that] music definitely meant a lot more to me,” Garcia said. “Now, I see band as an opportunity for greatness.” 

Once Garcia started to take music more seriously, he transitioned from the last chair to first. Garcia struggled adapting to jumping from middle school to high school. With the increased amount of work and the wider range of saxophonists, Garcia didn’t know what to expect when he would audition for the Hebron band.

“My mindset was just ‘not get last [chair,]’” Garcia said. “After hearing everybody else, I set the bar low for myself. I wasn’t expecting much, [and as a] freshman in high school, there’s not much expected [from me].”

Senior Aayan Patel is a saxophonist in the Wind Symphony. Patel met the freshman when Garcia was in 8th grade, through the band buddy system: which had high school students connect with middle schoolers, and had the pair write letters back and forth. Patel had first heard Garcia play at a local saxophone competition.

“I was just blown away,” Patel said. “[Garcia] was a clear standout, and I hadn’t heard a kid as young as him play that well before.”

Despite Garcia’s outlook on his audition, he received third chair, and made it into Wind Symphony — the top band. Garcia said he was shocked at his results, but still grateful and remained humble about his placement. 

“It’s my hope that all of my students are a good example of the proper way to pursue any musical instrument,” Smith said. “I think [Garcia] is really excelling in [having good character.] I value that significantly more than any skill that [Garcia] processes on saxophone.”

During the school year, LISD requires that every student in band must audition for Region auditions. Each instrument section takes a certain number of students, and qualifies them to continue auditioning for Area auditions, and students who advance further go to All-State. 

“Once I found out I made [it to] Area, my perspective on the whole [situation] completely changed,” Garcia said. “In the beginning, [auditions weren’t] that important to me. [After making it to Area] I felt that I really had a shot, and that I should actually go for [All-State] because I could actually make it somewhere.”

Garcia prepared and practiced daily to ensure that he would get into All-State. Area auditions only take one tenor saxophonist to All-State, meaning Garcia and another Hebron student had to go against each other. On Jan. 12, the saxophones received the results for All-State, and Garcia was the only one to make it.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Garcia said. “I was happy about myself, but at the same time, [I knew] I took something away from somebody else when they didn’t really get that opportunity. That made me feel really bad. I was [on] a stage that I should be grateful [to be at], but at the same time, I should [also] be mindful of other [people].”

Taking his band and All-State experiences, Garcia said he’s more aware of the obstacles he’ll face for the next three years of band. 

“I feel like I definitely need to put in more effort at the beginning [of the year,]” Garcia said. “ [I need to] just prepare myself timely, make sure to get everything done before it’s too late. [I’ll try to] have no regrets after I’m done. The biggest thing is to have fun and to enjoy the experience.”

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