BRAWLEY – Sports teams aren’t the only ones who can go through a rebuilding phase. The 2017 Brawley Union High School Wildcat marching band, under director Esteban Corona, has introduced a focus in the right direction with a goal to make Brawley music great again.(#makeBmusicgreatagain). In his first year, and as the third instructor in as many years, Corona has instilled an excitement in band through his motivation, enthusiasm and dedication. Those were the top three most popular words used by his band students to describe him.
The band began practicing voluntarily before the school year even began, and recently performed at the 20th annual IVMEA (Imperial Valley Music Educator’s Association) Halftime Festival held at Cal Jones Field in El Centro November 7.
Other words used by his students to describe him include fun, hard working, cool, and awesome, to name a few. But who is Esteban Corona and what are his goals for the future of the music program in Brawley and at the high school level?
Corona, one of six boys and a twin, said he fell in love with the thought of conducting at the age of eight-years-old while watching the Disney channel. It was there he watched Mickey conducting a youth orchestra and knew that’s what he wanted to do.
Joining a local music program around fifth grade, he ended up joining the orchestra due to a shortage of band instruments. After passing a basic intuition test, he learned the viola and began training under Carolyn Sechrist, and she proved to be the most influential person and reason he decided to become a music educator, he said.
Corona was involved in the orchestra from fifth through the twelfth grade and said he considered himself lucky and proud to achieve great things under Sechrist that included top honors in performances as far away as Boston.
“I think my style of teaching stems from hers (Mrs. Sechrist). Knowing students can achieve great things with the correct guidance and structure, I push and demand a high standard. Students normally take the challenge and achieve great things that way,” Corona said.
After high school, Corona received a Bachelor’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. At the conservatory he began formally studying conducting, although he had conducting experience in high school when he stepped into leading the orchestra in high school while the teacher was out for six weeks. It was a great experience, Corona said.
At the conservatory, he watched tons of videos to study conductors and was able to watch and study conductors at the Davies Symphony Hall where the San Francisco Symphony performed. He also learned about many different instruments and had the opportunity to conduct a few concerts.
After graduating and not intending to return to the Imperial Valley, an opportunity became available at Wilson Junior High School that unfortunately didn’t come through, he explained. He was able to start an after-school program there in 2012 working with band and mainly orchestra students.
In 2013, he began a summer program with North County Coalition of Arts (NCCoA) which started his relationship with Brawley. There, he instigated a music program at Sacred Heart School until it was cancelled. In 2016, he was asked to be the director on NoCCA’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” where he was credited among others with its great success.
Corona’s plan with the BUHS band is to make it the new “show band” of the Valley. He said he wants to set them apart and find new ways to showcase the band while performing at a high level. Understanding that it will take time, he said he is planning on achieving it from the bottom up and will focus on the sound and presentation aspects. He also said he hoped his students will be proud of their accomplishments and performances.
If all goes according to his vision, Corona hopes people will notice and take the music program more seriously. He said the Brawley High band has experienced past greatness and he has set his goal to bring that back. He said the students and the community deserve a top quality music program, and his goal is to build a strong bond with the community and bring back the tradition that many former band members from the 1980s and ’90s have spoken about when they mention the “Hawaii years” (#HAWAII2020).
Corona said the goal is doable, but will require students, parents, administration and community support in order to make it happen.
“We, the band, want to be present in the Brawley Community,” said Corona.
The band marched from the Brawley High School to Warne field for every home football game this season, with the exception of one due to a severe dust storm.
Corona said he was very proud of the band’s performance at this year’s Halftime Band Festival Tuesday evening, and suggested looking for them as they march in the annual Cattle Call Parade Saturday, Nov. 11. Corona said the band is looking forward to more parades during the Christmas season.