PAC student’s efforts ignite Orchestra plans

Photo of  Marion Maldonado, Tabatha Tracy, and fellow Orchestra Club members perform a concert directed by James Fort.
Marion Maldonado, Tabatha Tracy, and fellow Orchestra Club members perform a concert directed by James Fort.

By Javier Canales Vargas
Pulse staff writer

An orchestra program could soon be a reality at Palo Alto College, thanks to the efforts of PAC student Marion Maldonado and a supportive Music faculty.

Maldonado, a graduate of Southwest High School in San Antonio, is a music lover.  From age 12 through her senior year in high school, she has played the violin.

“I love my instrument.  It is something that makes me happy but also challenges me,” she said.

Shortly after Maldonado, a double major in Education and Physics, arrived at Palo Alto College, she felt that a few things were missing on campus.  She missed the harmonic voices of a choir, the bold sound of an orchestra and the opportunity for non-music majors to enroll in music performance classes.

PAC student Tabatha Tracy has played the flute for nine years.  “I’m a Bio Med major, so I’m not allowed any Music courses.  Sadly, these are the rules,” she said.

So, Maldonado set out on a mission to change things.  She began an Orchestra Club in the Fall of 2012, her first semester at PAC.  The club recruited 12 members.  That December, they performed a small Christmas concert in the auditorium of the Performing Arts Center.

The following spring, many students in the group graduated or started working, having no time to continue in the club.  Though her efforts have established an unofficial choir, schedule conflicts and lack of instrument availability have temporarily halted her efforts to grow an orchestra.

“I’ve been aware of this student [Marion Maldonado] and her PAC Orchestra,” said Juan Tejeda, program adviser and Music instructor at Palo Alto College.  “I think it’s a great idea.”  PAC currently has a Jazz Ensemble, a Conjunto Ensemble and a Mariachi Ensemble.

“We’re the only college in the Alamo Colleges district that has all three ensembles, and the only college/university in the nation that has a Conjunto Program and Conjunto Ensemble,” Tejeda said.  “We’re very proud of this.”

In the meantime, the Palo Alto College Music Department is taking necessary steps to establish an official orchestra course.

“The idea of having an orchestra at PAC is very exciting,” said Dr. Armin Marmolejo, associate professor of Music at PAC.  “I am in the process of trying to have the course approved by the Music discipline teams across the district, then approved here at Palo Alto College.”

“All courses are driven by enrollment,” he continued.  “We hope that students across the campus interested in this course will support the ensemble and sign up for the course. This is ultimately what will make the course a reality here on campus.  The course, if approved, will be MUEN 1132: Instrumental Chamber Ensemble.”

Maldonado’s ultimate goal is to have an official orchestra class at Palo Alto by the time she graduates at the end of Spring 2014.

Maldonado added, “Having an actual orchestra is a great way to bring the community together because music is a universal language.  We have great and talented music instructors and motivated and talented students on campus. They both go well together and can create something beautiful and meaningful on campus and in the community.”