Children spend most of their waking hours in school. It is crucial that their education provides a solid foundation for not only their academic, but also their creative growth. Through fine arts, the two go hand in hand.
As Brownsville ISD’s Director of Fine Arts Michael Garcia explained, participating in a fine arts program such as band, choir, or theater is more than just a fun outlet for students.
“Fine arts improves and encourages kids’ creativity, confidence, and perseverance, which is essential to a child’s development,” he said. “Even beyond that, it helps them develop academic skills, motor skills, visual learning, decision-making, focus, collaboration, and accountability.”
Garcia, who has worked in education for 25 years, oversees all of the district’s fine arts programs and also serves as chair for Region 28 of the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), helping organize band auditions that lead to region, area, and state honors.
He stepped into his role earlier this year, but has been with the district for the past five years — first as an assistant band director, then as an instrumental music advisor. Though not originally from the Rio Grande Valley, Garcia said he feels right at home at Brownsville ISD working alongside its dedicated instructors.
“When I decided to major in music at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, it was because my teachers made it so fun and enjoyable,” Garcia said. “They had so much passion for it, and it inspired me to have that same passion.
“Here, we have very talented teachers in our programs who are all very passionate about the content they teach.”
Across the district’s seven high schools and 10 middle schools, approximately 10,000 students are involved in the fine arts programs. And throughout its more than two dozen elementary schools, music is provided to 17,000 students and art to over 8,000.
Once in middle school, students get to participate in any of these programs as an elective. And while Garcia said that many of them find something they love and stick with it through graduation, with art, choir, dance, theater, and band offered, there is always an opportunity for them to explore a new interest.
According to a report by Americans for the Arts — a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the arts and arts education — young people who engage in a fine arts activity for at least three hours a day, three days a week are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, be elected to a class office, and participate in a math and science fair compared to their peers who do not.
While fine arts education supports a child’s success in whatever career path they choose to pursue, Garcia said that, should it be fine arts, Brownsville ISD is one of the best districts for them to get their start.
“Our students get to participate in groups that are among some of the best in the state, and they tend to do very well once they move past high school because they were exposed to this high-level teaching and expectations to strive for excellence,” he said.
Over the long history of Brownsville ISD’s Fine Arts Department, the programs have earned consistent success and accolades at the local, regional, state, and national level. Already starting 2022 strong, 15 students earned first-chair placements at the TMEA Area G round of auditions — the most earned by any district in the area.
Veterans Memorial High School choir students also broke a recent record for having the most choir all-staters in the district’s history.
“Our students consistently place higher than students from other districts in individual competitions and auditions,” Garcia said. “This is due to their talent, as well as the environment we create in the district that helps foster their love for their craft, thus sparking a desire to be the best they can be.
“We have many students that have gone on to careers as artists, actors, musicians, and dancers. Many of our students have even chosen education as a career and are now teaching fine arts students at BISD and other districts, inspiring the next generation.”
For more information on Brownsville ISD’s Fine Arts Department and to stay up to date with student’s latest achievements and performances, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/BISDFineArts/.