MOE Spotlight – Plano ISD Music Groups

Plano ISD music groups scored a rare accomplishment – winners in the Mark of Excellence competition in band, choir and orchestra! View this excellent video put together by the communications department of Plano ISD. Congratulations to the district and to these excellent groups and directors!
The Mark of Excellence is sponsored by the Foundation for Music Education and consists of the National Choral Honors, National Orchestra Honors, National Wind Band Honors, National Jazz Honors, and National Percussion Ensemble Honors. 161 groups entered in 2011, and the project has received entries from 32 states.

National Mark of Excellence Awards

National Winners

Plano East Senior High Wind Ensemble: Director, Evelio Villareal

Shepton High School Chamber Orchestra: Director, Joshua Thompson

Commended Winners

Jasper High School Concert Chorale: Director, Judy Putney

Murphy Middle School Symphonic Band: Director, Nick Siebert


About the ‘Mark of Excellence’ Awards

The “Mark of Excellence” music competition is entered with recordings. The top quarter are selected as National Winners and the second quarter receive Commended Honors. This year, 161 of the finest musical ensembles in the nation entered the competition. The project received entries from 32 states.

Band adjudicators were John Whitwell, Michigan State University; Frank Wickes, Louisiana State University; and Steve Peterson from Ithaca College.

The choral adjudicator Milton Pullen from Pepperdine University. The orchestra adjudicator was Gary Lewis, director of orchestras as the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The groups received written comments and suggestions from the adjudicators and a compilation CD of the winning performances.

For more information about the national “Mark of Excellence” awards, visit this website:


Early Music Foundation Critical in Plano ISD

Kathy Kuddes, Plano ISD director of fine arts and special academic programs, said, “I think it’s one of the strengths of Plano ISD as a district that there’s a continued commitment that the fine arts are still a critical, central component of what we offer in terms of a well rounded education.

“We lay down the foundation at the earliest grades for music reading and music understanding, and then that allows students to make a knowledgeable, thoughtful decision about which pathway they want to take when they get to middle school, and then, we hope that ignites a passion in them that continues on all the way to the highest level.”


Winning Music Groups ‘Raise the Bar’

All four music directors whose student groups captured these top national awards credited hard work, dedication and practice for the young musicians playing award-winning music together.

“Our challenge each year is to keep raising that bar higher…and continuing the tradition of excellence,” commented Evelio Villarreal, longtime band director at Plano East whose bands have earned numerous state and national awards. “It’s not the trophies necessarily, it’s all the hard work that went into earning those trophies and all the people who have come before them, and what kind of legacy are they going to leave the young people coming up?”

Joshua Thompson, Shepton director, stated, “For us to go up against some of the best programs in the country, and for the kids to come out on top…it’s pretty special. They’re ninth and tenth graders, but they’re pros.”

Jasper High School Choir Director Judy Putney said, “This award is over the top. It takes commitment on the kids’ part. They’re here because they want to sing. I try to inspire them with my love for music. ”

Murphy Director Nick Seibert said, “For us, it’s starting from the very beginning. Over the course of the three years they’re with us, it’s fabulous to see them grow as people and musicians…Getting to the point of sounding better than my own high school band ever sounded takes a lot of concentration and perseverance. I consider myself lucky to spend three years with my students.

“I love these guys. They’re great kids.”