One of the most extraordinary remarks we hear from successful alumni is that their experience in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District contributed so much to their success. It is always that one class or one teacher that opens their eyes and help them achieve.
When Jack Pena, Principal Bassoon for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and 2011 Creekview High School graduate, started sixth grade at Blalack Middle School, he met an educator that would change his life. Sherry Miller, former Blalack Band Director, changed Pena's timeline forever.
"She [Miller] was really the person that first believed in me and opened my eyes to the world of music," said Pena. "Early on, she encouraged me to work harder, even when I tasted success."
Pam Pena, Jack's mother, loved the devotion of Miller as well. "CFBISD is the reason for Jack's success. When he began playing bassoon in the sixth grade, Ms. Miller met with me to explain his talent," said Pam Pena. "Ms. Miller began to walk alongside us to explore Jack's musical gift."
Pena blossomed in Blalack's Fine Arts program and had much success in the Creekview High School band program. He went to state all four years in high school and earning the first chair at the state competition his junior and senior years. His high school success led to Pena earning acceptance into the exclusive Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. He was one of 100 students from around the world to attend the college. After graduating in 2015, Pena attended Rice University to pursue his master's degree.
During his first year at Rice, Pena auditioned for a Principal Bassoon job in New Orleans with the Louisiana Philharmonic and won the position. Pena spent four years performing in New Orleans with the group. During the summer of 2020, he found out the Fort Worth Symphony held a virtual one-year Principal Bassoon audition. Being familiar with the area, Pena sent the required materials for the audition and was told shortly after he had won the job.
Ms. Miller never forgot about Pena. They still stay in contact to this day, with Miller attending many of Pena's Fort Worth performances.
"The most impressive thing about this story is that he is still followed and encouraged today by his teachers and leaders from CFBISD," said Pam Pena. "CFBISD made a direct impact on Jack's path into the professional music field."
Pena says his educational experience in CFBISD was incredibly valuable in his education as a musician and person. Pena states," I'll always say the number one thing CFBISD has taught me is to have a strong, open mind." He also feels lucky to have grown up in a school system as diverse as CFBISD.
"I was exposed to people from all different backgrounds and ideas that were foreign to me for all of my childhood. The diversity helped train me to be adaptable, open-minded and aware of the world around me," says Pena. During his academic career in CFBISD, Pena took advantage of the many opportunities the district gave him. From sports to music to UIL academic competitions, Pena was busy doing something.
The Fort Worth Symphony's holiday season is upon us. Pena's next performance will be on December 17 at the Sounds of the Season at White's Chapel United Methodist. You can purchase tickets on the Fort Worth Symphony website here: