It was an emotional night at La Joya ISD’s performing arts center as members of the community gathered to dedicate the building to Alejandro “Alex” H. Saenz – the district’s first director of fine arts.
Saenz’s sons, Michael and Hector, had to take time to collect themselves in a night filled with remembrances of their father and performances from every part of the district’s fine arts program, climaxing with the “Jalisco Fight Song,” composed by Alex Saenz in 1967.
Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa said it was a humble honor for her, a former band member and drum major, to offer the dedicatory address. She asked everyone in the audience who had been affected by Alex Saenz to stand up and said they are Saenz’s legacy.
“When someone can touch the lives of a student and transcend the classroom walls, touching the lives of an entire community, it becomes no question that a building should be named after him,” Ochoa said, later adding, “We’re blessed to have someone like Mr. Saenz to dedicate it to.”
And Superintendent Alda T. Benavides pointed out the timing was perfect.
“When we originally planned to set the date, little did we realize that this weekend we were going to have been celebrating our three high school bands earning a division 1 (rating) at Pigskin Jubilee,” she said.
Originally from Kingsville, Alex Saenz joined the district in 1963, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in music education from Texas A&I University. He’d been involved in his own high school band at Henrietta M. King High School and performed at social events with groups called the “White Hats” and “Blue Notes.”
When Alex Saenz graduated from college, he took a job as band director at La Joya High School, beginning his 35-year career with the district. In 1967, the band earned its first division 1 rating at Pigskin Jubilee.
Macario Garza served as a coach in the district and became life-long friends with Alex Saenz. Garza is the one who asked Alex Saenz to compose a fight song for the district, and Garza said the arrangement was complete in less than a week. Michael Saenz said he only recently learned that his father wrote the “Jalisco Fight Song” from a shelter out of town as Hurricane Beulah rocked the Rio Grande Valley.
“The first time it was played, the kids loved it; the athletes loved it, and it kind of brings out your energy,” Garza said.
The band director wrote many of his own arrangements and liked to sketch out marching band formations on graph paper, Michael Saenz said of his father. He served as band director for 17 years until he was made an assistant principal in 1980. Then, in 1989, Alex Saenz was named the first-ever director of fine arts for the district. He retired in 1998.
“He remained active, attending La Joya fine arts performances regularly and continuing to serve as a mentor to many of the directors of the fine arts programs,” Michael Saenz said. “He was also dearly remembered by many ex-students who never failed to call and wish him a happy Cinco-de-Mayo birthday.”
Son Hector Saenz pointed out his father’s work outside of the classroom. Alex Saenz served as a board member of Joya Federal Credit Union for three decades, he helped raise money for scholarships through his church and helped lead a prayer group for 12 years.
Alex Saenz died April 24, 2013, from complications of a stroke and Parkinson’s disease, Hector Saenz said, choked with emotion. Alex Saenz has four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“He was an excellent role model and taught his family about love, honesty, respect and hard work by example,” Hector Saenz said. “We are proud that this building, where many people will continue to learn and love the fine arts, will be named after him. Three of his grandchildren will have the honor to compete in concert and sight reading competitions in this building over the next few years.”