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Fine Arts Department utilizes a variety of mediums in COVID era

Band, choir student shares on disappointments and resilience during pandemic

Yuma, AZ (March 22, 2021) – For the past three years, Vanessa Ramirez has been diligently working to improve as both a flutist and a singer.

Ramirez has participated as a student in the Arizona Western College Community Band, Pep Band, and Jazz Band and also takes private voice lessons and sings second soprano and alto with the AWC Chamber Singers and Yuma Chorale.

With graduation right around the corner, Ramirez was looking forward to the pinnacle of a band and choir students’ college career - performing during the Sophomore Recital in a beautiful church setting with great acoustics to really showcase overall growth as an artist.

While the recital will still be held, it will now take place outdoors due to the pandemic. It will be held in the breezeway of the 3C Building at the AWC Yuma Campus on Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m.

“The pandemic took away a lot of opportunities I was looking forward to this year,” said Ramirez. “I was beyond excited to have all the performances and group activities I had in previous semesters, and now I actually have the time to do them.”

Ramirez shared that transitioning to an online learning environment has been a challenge as a hands-on learner. The shift has required Ramirez to adjust and adapt in order to retain information in general education courses.  So Ramirez was grateful when it was announced that band and choir classes could still meet in-person, albeit with masks and social distancing.

Despite the challenges and disappointments that have come along with the pandemic, Ramirez feels prepared for whatever comes next. Ramirez attributes this confidence to time spent at AWC, thanks to an Instrumental Scholarship in 2018.

“The Fine Arts Department at AWC, especially the Music Department, is probably one of the most tight-knit groups of people I’ve ever seen,” said Ramirez. “I’ve met so many great individuals from all paths of life and I have made life-long friends. Not only did I make the right choice of attending AWC before a four-year institution, but I also feel well prepared and confident in where I’m headed after I graduate.”

Ramirez will graduate in May with associate degrees in both Music and English. Ramirez recently completed auditions for continued higher education and plans to transfer to a university as a double major in Music Education and Creative Writing. The end goal for Ramirez is to earn a master’s degree in Music Education teaching all levels of students.

“I definitely believe this whole experience has made me more resilient and will prepare me for my future endeavors,” said Ramirez. “It’s a unique experience for those like me who are going into the field of education and teaching. I feel that I’ve learned how to rise to the occasion if the same event were to happen to me in the future.” 

Deltrina Grimes, Professor of Choral and Vocal Music, shared that her students sing outside whenever possible, rehearse with masks at a distance of 6-8’, and take frequent breaks. She’s also working with AWC’s TV Services Department to produce video performances to be shared online.

“Even with all the constrictions, the lack of a resonant performance space, lack of a live audience, and limitations on instrumentation, we are making it work. I credit this to my students and their desire to sing,” she said.

AWC band students have also been rehearsing outdoors in the breezeway of the 3C Building. This is also the space where they will be performing a variety of musical styles during upcoming concerts.

The first Jazz Ensemble Concert of the spring semester will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24. This is a rescheduled concert that was originally slated to be held on March 3. The second Jazz Ensemble Concert will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5.

The Faculty Chamber Music Concert will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 18, and the Community Band Concert will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 3.

Additionally, a Formal Student Recital, a culmination of the semester of work for AWC music students, will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 2.

Seating will be limited at these events due to social distancing, and masks are required.

Visit AWC’s YouTube Channel here to see a playlist of Fine Arts performances from last semester including past choir and band concerts as well as vignettes from the AWC Theater Program. 

An outdoor mural project is also underway at the AWC San Luis Learning Center, 1340 N. 8th Ave. Art Curiosity and Secrets Club (ACAS) members Denisse Ibarra, Carol Valencia, Eli Duarte, Jessica Alvarez, and Jennifer Gonzalez have created a design for the wall adjacent to Arnold’s Lounge, dedicated to AWC Hall of Fame member Arnold Trujillo. The mural will tie into the signage for the lounge and highlight Trujillo’s significant achievements and work as it related to students, the community, education, families, veterans, and more. The ACAS Club is inviting staff and students to participate in the project regardless of their level of artistic talent.

“The club members are very motivated by this opportunity to apply their artistic skills to a mural that will enhance the San Luis Learning Center environment,” said Julie Floss, Professor of Fine Arts at AWC.

Those interested in participating can contact Floss at for more information about the mural and the ACAS Club. The club meets on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. via Zoom for those who would like to join. In addition to the mural project, ACAS club member Jennifer Gonzalez has shared a bookbinding tutorial on the group’s Facebook page.

For those unable to make it over to the AWC Yuma Campus Art Gallery, the mixed media pieces that were on display by local artist and arts educator Stacy Blackmer-Blomquist as part of the Exile Series can also be found online here. Blackmer-Blomquist currently teaches art at San Pasqual High School and has previously served as an adjunct professor at AWC.

Other fine arts events are also going virtual like the Open Mic Night and Artists’ Showcase led by David Kern, Professor of English. His Creative Writing class is hoping to drum up a variety of talent for the event, which will be held via Zoom from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14. Writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, spoken-word artists, and comics are all welcome to prepare a 3-to-5-minute presentation and participate. Any performance suitable for presentation in a virtual environment will be accepted.

“The intent is to create a relaxing performance space for the community to come together and encourage artists to pursue their craft,” said Kern

Contact Professor Kern at (928) 317-5881 or for more information about signing up. Visit to attend the event via Zoom.

Upcoming Fine Arts events at a glance:
*All events will be held outdoors in the 3C Building Breezeway at the AWC Yuma Campus, 2020 S. Ave 8E, unless otherwise noted.

  • The Radio Active Variety Show, an AWC Fine Arts fundraiser event, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, performances will be live streamed on the Yuma Art Center Facebook and Instagram
  • Jazz Ensemble Concert, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24
  • Sophomore Recital, 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 11
  • Open Mic Night and Artists’ Showcase, 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14, virtually via Zoom
  • Faculty Chamber Music Concert, 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 18
  • Formal Student Recital, 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 2
  • Community Band Concert will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 3
  • Jazz Ensemble Concert, 7p.m. on Wednesday, May 5
  • AWC Choral Concert, 7 p.m. on Friday, May 7, location TBD

Mandy Heil
Director of Communications and Marketing
Arizona Western College
(928) 314-9594

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