These Tarrant County students are going to Texas’ “Super Bowl for musicians”

This Valentine’s Day the Paschal High School’s all-male choir is making some history that their fans compare to athletes winning state championships.

Meet Paschal’s All-Stars of music. These 23 young men are the Paschal High School’s Panther Corps’ Men’s Choir.

The choir has been invited to perform at the 2019 Texas Music Educator’s Association conference Thursday evening in San Antonio. It is the first time a choir from Fort Worth schools has been invited to perform.

“The twenty-three students in this all-male choir have worked diligently to achieve this honor,” said Nathan Benavides, Paschal’s choir director, in a written statement. “We are so proud to represent Paschal High School and FWISD at this state music conference. This has been a special journey for these young men, and I am proud to have witnessed their growth as musicians.”

TMEA is a non-profit professional association for music educators. Its annual convention draws thousands of fine arts students and educators from across the globe.

Texas fine arts students typically compete for slots and titles from the TMEA in February and then gear up for other state competitions under the University Interscholastic League, a separate entity.

Students and teachers represent their school districts as performers or presenters at the convention, which is expected to draw about 30,000 people this year. The event is at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio.

“It’s huge,” said Trevlyn Nipper, assistant choir director at Paschal. “This convention has very long tradition.”

‘Super Bowl for musicians’

Students compete individually for the honor of being selected for the TMEA’s all-state band, choir, jazz band and orchestra. All-State musicians go through multiple rounds of auditions. Educators said being selected an All-State musicians by the TMEA is the highest honor for Texas music students.

Karen Cross, spokeswoman for the TMEA, said student performers end up at the convention after a highly competitive process.

Cross said auditions begin with about 70,000 students. In the end, about 1,790 students were named All-State performers. Once at the convention, they rehearse until a “world-class” performance on Saturday, she said.

“People talk about this convention as being a Super Bowl for musicians,” Cross said.

Musicians and singers also end up performing at the convention by invitation, as the Paschal choir did, Cross said. That, too, is no easy chore, Cross said.

The Fort Worth school district has six students who were selected as All-State performers.

“These students make up the top 1 percent that enter the initial audition phase,” said Dick Clardy, instrumental music director for Fort Worth schools, in a written statement.

Other Tarrrant County school districts will be represented in San Antonio. Twenty-five fine arts students were chosen as All-State musicians at Mansfield schools.

At Northwest schools, 12 All-State choir and band students will perform. Nine students from Byron Nelson High School will participate in a percussion demonstration at the professional conference for educators on Friday.

Aledo and Hurst-Euless-Bedford schools each have two All-State performers. HEB’s elementary honor choir was also selected to perform on Friday. Eagle Mountain-Saginaw schools has one student set to perform in the Texas All-State 5A Symphonic Band.

Arlington’s Martin High School Symphony Orchestra is performing as a full honor orchestra at TMEA on Thursday. Keller’s Trinity Springs Treble Choir was also scheduled to perform.

Paschal’s ‘awesome’ moment

Paschal’s all-male choir will perform a program titled “This is My Song.” The program showcases the diversity of the Fort Worth community. It features eight songs from different parts of the world, including Mexico, India, Germany, Estonia and Finland.

“I’m ridiculously excited,” said Aiden Kocur, a member of the Paschal all-male choir. “It is an incredible opportunity that I thought I would never have.”

Kocur, a baritone, has been singing in a choir for about seven years. He said the convention allows performers to connect through the power of music.

Benavides said Paschal’s participation at the convention is a source of community pride for the choir program.

“Man, it’s awesome. This is the first time it has ever happened to Fort Worth ISD,” Benavides said.

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.