By Herman Delgado
Up on the hill right above Arizona Street in central El Paso, sits the Young Women’s STEAM Research & Preparatory Academy (YWA), an all-girls school that prides itself on education and leadership. In the last two years, it has raised some eyebrows around El Paso, especially gymnasiums and football stadiums, not only for its success in education but for it’s Drumline…a total of 28 young ladies (currently) ranging from sixth to tenth grade, who proudly march to the beat of their own drum.
Mark Teran, Assistant Principal at YWA is responsible for bringing this project to life and to the forefront two years ago. What started out with a few drumsticks and buckets from a local appliance store has now turned into quite a successful project. A brief visit with him in his office and I understand and get a sense of his passion for this project and how much care and love he has for his students. The feeling is mutual though as I sit down and talk to several of these young ladies who look up to Teran, whom they refer to as, ‘Mr. T’. He’s not only their Assistant Principal, drumline instructor, and educator, but he’s a role model and leader to them. For Teran, the love and passion for drums began when he was six years old. “I started playing on pots and pans and then my parents took me to this music store on Alameda and Copia, where an old man showed me the proper technique of playing the drums,” said Teran. “I continued playing music at Zavala, Henderson, and onto Bowie where I became section leader, and graduated in 1985.”
I first caught wind of these amazing and talented young ladies during the 2022 Glasheen, Valles & Inderman 85th Annual Sun Bowl Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was on a photography assignment, standing on the corner of Montana Avenue and Brown Street, when I heard some loud beating and soon realized that these young ladies had a nice rhythm going on…they really got the crowd going and into the beat and rhythm of their drums. Even with some of these drums weighing as much as 45-pounds, these girls maintained their smiles, poise, and positive attitude. They were not only performing for the crowd along the parade route, but for the entire city of El Paso, their school, their friends, their families, and of course…Mr. T.
Natalie Cardenas, 7th grader (12-year-old) plays the snare drum and she’s been with the drumline for just one year. “Last year I didn’t want to join the drumline because I thought it was going to be like choir,” said Cardenas. But then I heard them playing and I knew I wanted to join them because they sounded so good!” Frida Caldera-Cordero, 8th grader (13-year-old), drumline section leader summed up her role on the drumline. “I like it because it’s like a big family…a giant sisterhood. I get to bond with my friends, meet new people, and make new friends.” Kiana Tsutsui another 8th grader, and drumline manager is responsible for creating the daily schedule which she submits to Teran for his approval. “When I was in elementary school, I heard the Franklin band playing and I fell in love and knew that I was going to play percussion,” said Tsutsui. Viviana Martinez, 7th grader (13-year-old) loves being a student at YWA and being part of the drumline. “I love how we get to bond together and travel to all these places,’ said Martinez. “We get to play music and I love music.”
Speaking to these young ladies, you get the feeling that they are very confident, carry themselves with a lot of pride and self-respect. A brief conversation and listening to them play, and I can assure you that they have earned it. They also have a lot of respect and admiration for ‘Mr. T’, “We are who we are, and he’s raised our confidence level,” said Cardenas. “We always catch a glimpse of him off to the side when we’re performing and he’s smiling…and that’s a great feeling.”
If any business or individual are interested in donating cymbals, bells, xylophones, gongs, cowbells, suspended cymbals, and chimes to help this program. Please reach out to Mark Teran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 915-236-4800.