Flute Fiesta

by Julio Barrera

On Saturday, September 16, 2023, over 250 high school and middle school students from 30 school districts, and their teachers, gathered in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas to celebrate the 5th Annual Flute Fiesta at Veterans Memorial Academy in San Benito. The full-day event featured warm-up classes, Dalcroze movement classes, TMEA and ATSSB etude clinics, and master classes with guest clinicians from the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. Born from a devoted teacher’s desire to give her students an opportunity to learn and come together in celebration, Flute Fiesta began in the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District with the planning and guidance of the district’s flute specialist, Dulce Rodriguez. Flute Fiesta is a full day of musical activities to help each student learn and improve as flute players. Not one to shy away from celebrating and putting together a clever theme, Rodriguez brought the element of Mexican culture in honor of 16 de Septiembre, otherwise known as Mexican Independence Day. The event helps kick off Hispanic Heritage Month festivities in South Texas, bringing together students from various school districts and two counties in celebration. At the entrance of Flute Fiesta, participants are greeted with Mariachi music and festive colorful decorations including the traditional design of Papel Picado. The occasion gives students and teachers a reason to dress in their best traditional Mexican attire and immerse themselves fully in Mexican culture, to celebrate together the beauty of flute and Hispanic heritage.

Dulce Rodriguez, Band Director and flute specialist at San Benito CISD, founded the event in 2016 to bring together her 30 flute students from the San Benito school district to practice their All-State etudes, get inspired, and have fun learning and improving their skills. Since its inception, Flute Fiesta quickly grew as other teachers in the Rio Grande Valley area became interested in joining in the learning and festivities. According to Rodriguez, “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine Flute Fiesta developing into its current form. It is extremely fulfilling to see how much support it continues to receive and how much it has grown.” Each year, community members and educators give not only their time, but also sponsor decorations, and donations to support the event. In 2023, Burkart Flutes and Haynes Flutes sponsored guest appearances, and Burkart Flutes exhibited flutes and piccolos at the event. Flute Specialists donated prizes for the loteria games.

Featured clinicians for 2023 Flute Fiesta included Dr. Cristina Ballatori, Burkart Artist and flute professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Emma Shubin, Clinician Ambassador Haynes Artist and Artistic Director of Integral Steps, and Dr. Nicaulis Alliey-Rodriguez, UTRGV-Brownsville Assistant Professor of Flute. Regional clinicians included talented flutists and teachers from South Texas, Celeste Canant, Crissy Morrell, and Jennifer Villarreal.

Flute Fiesta is a much-anticipated event each year and it is incredible to witness how Rio Grande Valley educators and community come together to organize and facilitate this event for their students. The energy of Flute Fiesta fosters a spirit of community and provides students and teachers inspiration in their journey as flutists. This year was extra special as students were treated to a surprise flute choir performance of Phyllis Louke’s “Flute Fiesta” by all the teachers in attendance at the conclusion of Flute Fiesta. Students were also able to join the fun and play the traditional folk songs of Mexico such as “Cielito Lindo” alongside their teachers in the first-ever live performance of the Rio Grande Valley Flute Fiesta Flute Choir. Both of these experiences were truly magical and have no doubt become a core memory for these students and teachers in their journey as flutists. For more information regarding Flute Fiesta, please contact Ms. Rodriguez at drodriguez@sbcisd.net or follow the official Flute Fiesta Instagram page at @rgvflutefiesta.