Last week, Alvarado High School student Anthony Garcia picked up the phone and got a surprise.

On the other end of the phone was AHS choral director Edward Smith, letting him know that he had been chosen as one of the state’s outstanding soloists of the year.

“I was speechless,” Garcia says. “I’m highly honored to get this award.”

Garcia revealed that he had no idea he had won the award, which is awarded to roughly one out of every 1,000 choir members that compete at Texas State Solo and Ensemble competition.

In a broader context, Garcia is one of only 220 students to be named an “outstanding performer” out of approximately 85,000 students participating in regional UIL music contests in the state.

“This achievement is truly a mark of musical excellence,” Smith stated.

Historically, the last time an AHS student was similarly honored was more than five years ago, Smith said. The award is determined by the judges at the state contest, each of whom select the top performers they hear, Smith says, adding that, beyond that, he is unsure of the process.

However, he is sure that the award is well deserved.

“Anthony has matured greatly throughout the course of the year, both vocally and as an overall student,” Smith said, noting Garcia has shown “great improvement” both vocally and academically.

“He is extremely coachable and one of the hardest workers we have in the program right now.”

In recognition of his selection, Garcia received a medallion (identical to those awarded to state champions in all UIL events) from Richard Floyd, the University Interscholastic League’s state director of music.

A sophomore, Garcia is a musically inclined student, participating in both the honor chorale as a bass I/baritone and the in the Golden Warrior Band, in which he plays trombone.

For his state solo, he sang “Sure on this Shining Night,” a work by Samuel Barber he first heard when he was a freshman.

“Ever since I heard Ashley [Fullerton] sing it last year, I’ve wanted to do it,” Garcia says, adding that he’s been working on it for most of the past year, practicing three to five hours a week to prepare for contest.

But, now that the contest has come and gone, he’s already looking for next year’s selection.

Right now, he hopes to sing another Barber piece entitled “The Crucifixion,” which he says “is a little more difficult.”

“It’s higher in my range, so I’m not used to it,” Garcia says, adding that the piece also has some technical elements which will be more difficult.

The son of Jesse Parra and Laura Garcia, Anthony says that his dream is to pursue music as a career.

“It’s my life,” Garcia says. “Without music, where would we be?”