Skip to main content

Draper Journal

St. John the Baptist, Juan Diego Catholic High orchestra students share gift of music

Mar 30, 2023 01:08PM ● By Julie Slama

Juan Diego Catholic High School orchestra, seen here in October, will have its final performance in May. (Photo courtesy of Juan Diego Catholic High School)

Juan Diego Catholic High School orchestra students are rehearsing, gearing up for their regional festival where judges will evaluate their performance.

The orchestra has become stronger in the past half dozen years as director Denisse Vallecillos also teaches at St. John the Baptist elementary and middle schools, allowing for a smooth transition for the student-musicians.

“It’s good to see consistency in teaching style and expectation and there is a familiarity and comfort to students as they transition from school to school,” she said. “I have a good rapport with the students so we’re able to pick up right from where we were and progress.”

There are two high school orchestras, one that practices before school with invited advanced middle school students joining the high schoolers, and another one during the school day. Already, the orchestra competed at the 46th annual high school Shakespearean competition this past fall, receiving good feedback to help the students prepare for region.

Regional competition will be split between solos and ensembles held one day at Providence High in Herriman and ensemble groups another day at American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork. Juan Diego planned to have 25 student-musicians take part.

In addition, they also are rehearsing for their spring concert that will be held in May.

“We’ll have music featured from different movies so that will be fun and more relaxed,” Vallecillos said.

There are two middle school orchestras that have grown from six students when she arrived to upward of 30 students during her tenure. They will perform with choir and band at 7 p.m., May 8 in Juan Diego’s auditorium.

Elementary orchestra students are learning a five-part piece after school two days per week; those student-musicians will perform their spring concert on a yet-to-be-announced May date in Juan Diego’s Little Theatre.

The groups also are part of videos that are produced and feature their music.

“It started with COVID and the choir,” Vallecillos said. “Since then, they’ve added the orchestra and band. We’ve played religious music that is more meaningful and representative of our school for Easter, Advent and Christmas. The students are recorded, and the videographer mixes it with art. It turns out beautiful.”

Those recordings are available to the public on the school’s YouTube page.

Even with these performances and opportunities, Vallecillos wants students to appreciate their efforts every day.

“I hope all the groups are loving to play for the joy of music. They’re learning to collaborate with their classmates and hearing how each part in the ensemble has beauty. It’s like being on a team, where they all have a common goal,” she said.

At the same time, they’re learning about different styles of music.

Vallecillos said that she has arranged modern, historical, baroque, classical and pop music for the students to perform.

“Some pieces give them a challenge, and they gain confidence and grow with the parts. They’re learning they can do something challenging, especially since string instruments are hard, and they’re seeing success. They work hard and persevere to produce good results,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see them dedicate themselves to creating beautiful music that is appreciated by themselves and others.”