Pictured: New Alice ISD band instructors Adan Salinas Jr. and Gary Kennedy. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

Salinas, Kanicki, Kennedy have high hopes

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Three new band directors joined the Alice ISD Music Department this year, and for one in particular, the move to Alice was a homecoming long in the making.

Adan Salinas Jr. knew that one day he would make it back to Alice. A 1989 graduate of Alice High School, Salinas graduated from Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and spent the last 10 years teaching at Pearsall ISD, after short stints in the music programs at Zapata and Laredo Martin.

Salinas always wanted to be a rock and roll drummer; playing for large crowds and getting attention, but the road to percussion was a rocky one.

Salinas failed the drum test, given to students thinking about becoming percussionists, to see if they have the basic ability.

He was told he wouldn't make it. Those words were enough to push him on.

He considered the saxophone and the trombone, but when he was told he couldn't play, he just had to prove them wrong.

"I was hard-headed. I did it anyway," Salinas said. "So I feel for the last chair students. I tend to look out for those kids, because I know what it feels like. Every kid learns at their own pace, the point is just to get someplace in the end."

Salinas said he tries to give his students the same attention and respect the teachers gave him in Alice.

"It's fun being at home, seeing everything through the eyes of a teacher instead of a student. It's very different, very fun," Salinas said.

For Chris Kanicki, the move from the University of Miami to Alice was an easy one. He wanted to be surrounded by the best band programs in the country, and Texas was the place most spoken of.

Starting in elementary school and up through high school, Kanicki always loved to play the saxophone. It was "the coolest instrument," he said. Along with helping other saxophone students, Kanicki is also in charge of the JV Band at William Adams Middle School.

For a band director fresh out of college, it's a major responsibility, and at first he was a little nervous.

"I was a drum major in high school and college, so there was a little nervousness at first, but I was used to helping younger players and other musicians in the band as a drum major. It was a smooth transition into teaching," Kanicki said. "Texas has some of the best band programs in the country, more developed than anywhere else."

His goal with the band is to have his students play better and strengthen their fundamental skills. He said the ultimate goal, of course, is to get them to a position where they'll be able to get into third or second band for next year.

Gary Kennedy is also a first-time teacher, and his responsibilities are wide ranging. As a low brass instructor, his concerns range from the youngest tuba players to a section full of senior tuba players ready to dance during Coyote football games. And, if asked, he will tell you the low brass is the foundation of the band.

A graduate of New Braufels High School and the University of North Texas, Kennedy's goal includes building up that part of the band program. He realizes he has big shoes to fill, after the retirement of long-time low brass instructor Hugh Oliver. But, Kennedy is confident that under his guidance, AISD will continue to produce strong tuba players, and the tubas will continue to dance on Friday nights.

"Ever since I first started playing, I knew this is what I wanted to do," Kennedy said. "Most people don't give the low brass the credit it deserves, but the low brass is the foundation of the band, they help everything sound better. We have some really good players at the high school."

Kennedy's teaching style is still evolving, as he tries out different methods, seeing what works and what doesn't. But he said that with the great music teachers at AISD, he's sure to learn a lot during his first year.