Two N' Four Vocal Jazz Ensemble perform at Monterey Jazz Festival

This weekend, 16 current and former students in Valencia High School’s Two N’ Four Vocal Jazz Ensemble had the unique opportunity to perform at the 60th annual Monterey Jazz Festival.

The school choir was one of three in the nation selected to perform in the professional lineup of more than 500 artists.

“We’re just really thankful and grateful that we got selected to perform,” Choir Director Christine Tavares-Mocha said.  “More than that, we’re just lucky that we have the support of parents and the community as a public school to represent our school, our city and our state in this festival.”

Held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds from Friday to Sunday, the Monterey Jazz Festival celebrates the legacy of jazz and expands its boundaries through a production of performances and educational programs.

For three days and two nights, artists from across the country participate in the longest-running jazz festival in the world.

**The Valencia High School Choir practices on Friday ahead of a performance at the Monterrey Jazz Festival on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The group of six recent graduates and 10 current Valencia High School students was invited to participate in the festival in March when they were named the runner up in the high school vocal division at the 2017 Next Generation Jazz Festival.

During their Sunday afternoon performance, the students performed the same set they won with six months ago.

“They thought it was unbelievable and felt it went full-circle.  They worked so hard for four years,” Tavares-Mocha said.  “It was an amazing and prestigious event so they were on cloud 9 and so was I as their teacher.  It was such an honor, as a public school teacher, to be selected for something like that.”

Tavares-Mocha said it was both exciting and humbling to watch her students perform independently on the stage at a prestigious event.

“It is really amazing to watch these students grow and then you see them on stage and they do so well and are so professional and you forget that they’re high school students,” she said.  “Many of these students never had any musical training before they joined choir and to see how far they’ve come is amazing as a teacher.”

This is not the only success of the Two N’ Four Vocal Jazz Ensemble during their 2016-17 season.

This past year the choir won first place in the Fullerton Jazz Festival and first place in the California Verdugo Hills A Cappella Festival.

They also are the winter of six DownBeat Awards including the 2017 winner of “Top High School Vocal Jazz Ensemble” and spent their summer traveling France and performing throughout the country.

**The Valencia High School Choir practices on Friday ahead of a performance at the Monterrey Jazz Festival on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

It is a path of success that Tavares-Mocha and her students hope to continue during their upcoming competition and performance season, as they attempt to be part of the Monterey Jazz Festival again.

“We will always try, this is our fourth year being at the Monterey Jazz Festival,” Tavares-Mocha said.  “Every year is a new group with new students and it’s kind of exciting that way…  As older students graduate newer students step up to the plate.”

On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

Saugus High grad, Broadway star helps put on performance workshop for SCV students

A Broadway star returned home to the Santa Clarita Valley this weekend to help show the ropes to more than 100 young performers from Saugus and Valencia high schools.

Staging the performance workshop Friday and Saturday at Valencia High School were professionals from Young Performers of America, including Broadway star and Saugus High School graduate Mandy Gonzalez.

Gonzalez grew up in Saugus and has since gone on to star in a number of Broadway shows, including “Wicked” and “In the Heights.”

Getting to come back to work with high-schoolers in her hometown was “incredible,” said Gonzalez, who is also creative director of Young Performers of America.

“I love working with students, seeing their passion for theater and trying to help them bring that to life,” she said Saturday.

It’s a passion Gonzalez understands well. Being involved in programs like drama and theater “really saved me in high school,” she says, by helping her find a where she felt she belonged.

The one thing missing from that experience, she said, was being able to collaborate and connect with students from other schools.

“I’m hoping that this program is able to do that,” she said, “because the arts really should be celebrated out here.”

For Christine Tavares-Mocha, the choral and vocal director at Valencia, the best part of the workshop was seeing students come out of their shells. 

“When you watch your kids start growing ... it’s really inspiring as a teacher,” she said Saturday. “It’s what we live for as teachers.”

Though not all the students who participated in the workshop may aspire to be on a Broadway stage some day, Tavares-Mocha said she hopes they all come away inspired to chase their dreams. 

“Whatever it is, aspire to it and work toward that goal,” she said. “And have the grit and perseverance to do it rather than just dream about it.”

The students showcased their two days of hard work Saturday night with a pair of performances at Valencia High School.

Gonzalez said she thinks Saturday’s performances brought “a little bit of Broadway to Santa Clarita” and that she hopes to bring the program back in the future.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



Broadway Star Teaches Saugus, Valencia High School Students In Drama, Music Workshops

A Broadway star who graduated from Saugus High School returned to her hometown of Santa Clarita on Friday and Saturday to help students from Valencia and Saugus polish up their performance skills as part of a series of workshops on drama and music.

Mandy Gonzalez led the workshops, where the students were given over 12 dance numbers to memorize over Jan. 29 and 30.

“We do an intensive program here for the students,” said Gonzalez, “because it’s something I would have wanted (as a student).”

Students from the theater and choir programs at Valencia and Saugus High Schools were instructed by professionals from Young Performers of America, while some were taken into a separate auditorium for personal coaching in a master class put on by Gonzalez.

“There’s a lot of students here with a lot of talent,” she said.

The workshops culminated in a pair of performances on Saturday night aimed at raising funds for the drama and music programs in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“It’s a great thing for the community,” said Gonzalez. “Over the course of two days, they’ve grown so much. it’s been insane.”

Gonzalez orchestrated the workshops with the help of longtime friend Christine Tavares-Mocha, the choir director at Valencia High School.

“The kids are extremely talented,” said Tavares-Mocha. “It’s amazing to watch them grow over such a short time.”

Gonzalez hopes to continue the classes next year, and hopefully expand.

“We kind of kept it to the two schools,” she said, “but we’d like to come back next year and have all the schools participate.”

An Experience Of A Lifetime
Elite Magazine

by Stephanie Elgin

As America’s flag hung, still waving despite defeat on that dawn in September, 1814, the sight inspired Francis Scott Key to write his poem, Defense of Fort McHenry. The poem was set to music, modified and retitled and in 1931 proclaimed by Congress to be our Nation’s Anthem… The Star Spangled Banner.

It was during the 19th century that The Star Spangled Banner became one of America’s loved patriotic songs. And it’s no surprise that it gained even more popularity when played at Major League Baseball games, after all, baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime. During the 1918 World Series game between the Red Sox and the Cubs, the brass band played Francis Scott Key’s The Star Spangled Banner and the players and the fans immediately joined in…. Patriotism at its best.

The Valencia High School Choir had a chance to partake in America’s tradition. On the evening of July 3, the award winning Valencia High School Vocal Jazz Two N’ Four belted out The Star Spangled Banner in front of thousands of fans at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds game. As the crowds stood with their hands over their hearts, ball caps in hand, saluting the flag, you couldn’t help but be proud of our Santa Clarita students who represented not only our Valley so well, but our country too. Their rendition was flawless.

Jeffrey Pina, father of choir member Blair Pina, made all of this happen. With the right connections through his company, Avery Dennison, he approached Craig Sindici of the Dodgers organization to consider the VHS Vocal Jazz Two N’ Four under the direction of Christine Tavares to perform the National Anthem. After a few connections with the Dodger front office, the organization chose the VHS Jazz Choir to sing the National Anthem prior to the game and God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.

Craig and Jeffrey decided to make a night of it for the choir students. The Dodgers donated Suite tickets and purchased food to create a memorable experience for the kids and their parents…a memory that will last a lifetime.

“My wife Dyanne and I donated our time and finances to support a fantastic music program at Valencia and a terrific teacher in Christine Tavares, not to mention some wonderful kids and parents who are passionate about jazz, our school, education and making a difference,” states Jeffrey. “What a testimony to the American public education system.” 

The Valencia High School Choir headed to London in July to perform in the London Summer Olympics in front of a crowd of over 85,000 and millions of viewers. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and a chance for them to see the places and events they’ve been learning about in their history books. More so, it’s a chance to step outside of America and understand what the world is like in a hands on way,” states Director Christine Tavares. “What an incredible experience for the youth that will hopefully become leaders of their generation.” 

For more information about the Valencia Choir, visit



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    March 21 and 22nd San Luis Obispo Choral Festival, 
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Congratulations Valencia High School 2 n' 4 and Soundwaves Vocal Jazz Ensembles on their spectacular performances and victories at the Folsom Jazz Festival!!  Sweeps Champions & 1st Place JCAA Division for 2 n' 4 and 1st Place JCA Division for Soundwaves!!  Way to go!!!


Valencia High School Performances


VHS Concert Choir - The Prayer

Uploaded by Skand Anderson on 2016-05-31.


VHS Women's Choir - La Lluvia

Uploaded by Skand Anderson on 2016-05-31.


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