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Two San Marcos High School students receive top state music awards

Cora LaCoss and Ben Keller earned the Outstanding Performer Award at the UIL State Solo & Ensemble Contest.
Photo by SMCISD

Two San Marcos High School students receive top state music awards

Sunday, September 10, 2023

San Marcos High School musicians Ben Keller and Cora LaCoss were named outstanding performers at the UIL State Solo and Ensemble Contest in May.

Keller and LaCoss received the Outstanding Performer Award, which is given to musicians who demonstrate superior musicianship during the event.

Keller is currently a junior and a violinist in SMHS’s Orchestra Program and LaCoss is a senior and a member of the Choir Program. Both musicians received their medals for their performance in late July.

Keller, who performed the first movement of Max Bruch's Concerto in G Minor, Op. 26, said he wasn’t expecting to receive the award.

“I had been practicing my piece for a really long time,” said Keller. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to try my best, I’m going to do this, and we’ll see how it goes in the end.’ I ended up getting that award and it’s really, really awesome.”

LaCoss, who performed Pietro Cimara’s Fiocca la neve, said she’d been critiqued by the same judge at a previous event and was surprised that he awarded her a superior rating.

“My mindset was to go in and perform for him and not really care about the outcome,” said LaCoss. “So, I was very excited when he gave me a one. It was an awesome feeling and rad to see that he himself also saw the growth and what I had done in the past year. It meant a whole lot to me.”

SMHS Orchestra Director Gabriel Balderrama, and Choir Director Dawn Sheridan-Reinhuber are proud of their musicians.

“Every once in a while, you get this happy message that out of these thousands of kids who went and sang, your student was chosen as the top 1% of all those kids who made it to state,” said Sheridan-Reinhuber. “It is an amazing achievement. It means that the performance wasn’t just correct and it wasn’t just clean, it means that it was really exceptional.”

Balderrama said Keller, who was also named a Texas Music Educators Association All-State violinist in 2022, has enjoyed a great high school career.

“He’s just been tearing it up here at San Marcos High School,” said Balderrama. “We’re happy to have him in our program and we couldn’t be more proud of all of his hard work.”

Reflecting upon their awards, both Keller and LaCoss shared similar advice for musicians looking to earn the same accolade.

“Solo and ensemble has always been a way to get critiqued by other people who you do not see every single day,” said La-Coss. “So, I think that it’s better to go in without expecting the award or wanting the award. It can be a motivator, but it should be the main thing.”

“If you do any other competition, it doesn’t even have to be music, I think the main goal should be that you end up learning something or you take something from the experience and not that you walked away with this award,” added Keller.

San Marcos Record

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