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Southside student represents heart of San Antonio at esteemed band camp

Music has always seemed like a no-brainer to Christian Gonzales. The rising senior at Southside High School grew up in a family of musicians, taking after his older brothers in joining band in fifth grade and learning other instruments in his free time since then. Yet, he never imagined that his skills would take him far away from the Southside and even outside of San Antonio, to one of the most esteemed music camps across the nation. Gonzales…

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Christian Gonzales has always found music to be a logical choice. After following in the footsteps of his elder brothers and joining the school band in the fifth grade, the incoming Southside High School senior has been playing several instruments in his own time.

However, he had no idea that his talents would lead him far beyond the Southside and even outside of San Antonio, to one of the most prestigious music camps in the country.

It’s been nearly a century since the Interlochen Arts Camp, a long-running summer camp program for talented young artists, opened its doors. His teachers at Southside and the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) were pleased by the local teen’s talent on the tuba, and they helped prepare him for his stay at Interlochen, situated in Michigan.

Gonzales is able to develop his tuba talents as a result of his participation in the acclaimed program.

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In northern Michigan, he adds, “the greatest musicians in the world and the United States come together to make some of the best music I’ve ever played or heard.”

Interlochen has been a long road for Gonzales, but he’s thankful for the time he’s spent on it. While in middle school, his band director pushed kids to audition for the UIL’s Region Band, which allows students to compete for the opportunity to join the region’s band. Gonzales redoubled his efforts in eighth grade after being rejected from the band in seventh.

I figured if I practiced more in high school, I could make Region Band several more times and improve by a factor of 20.

So, he went ahead and did it. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic delayed the soon-to-be senior’s intentions to audition for Region Band, but he’s still made it every year since then. To top it off, he’s an All-State Soloist, meaning he achieved the best possible scores among Texas musicians on a Grade 1 piece (which means it’s exceedingly difficult) he performed by himself and from memory.

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It wasn’t until he was a member of the city’s most brilliant young musicians that Gonzales discovered his true passion for music. With the help of the directors of YOSA and the experienced local ensemble, he discovered exactly how far his musical abilities could carry him.

In and of itself, securing a place at Interlochen was a significant accomplishment. As part of his application to the elite camp, Gonzales was required to submit a recording of himself demonstrating his tuba skills. After arriving at the camp, the youngster had to re-audition for a spot in one of the program’s three bands.

On Saturdays at 6 p.m., Interlochen’s best band performs at the school’s main auditorium.

As he confesses, “We’re playing college-level repertoire.” In his own words, “being here made me unlock my potential,” he said of playing some of those instruments.

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The 17-year-old, who hopes to major in music at college and pursue a career in the field, is making the most of the variety and opportunity offered by Interlochen during his six-week stay.

One of his fellow passengers is from Taiwan, he adds. Since I’ve made connections and gained experience playing in a college band, a larger ensemble, I believe that I can advance in my musical career.

Gonzales’ musical adventure will undoubtedly continue with the same passion and vigor after Interlochen.

As he recalls, “in middle school, I couldn’t have imagined being here.” When you’re actually there, you realize that if you put in the time and effort, you can get what you want.

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