Band's life transformed to the screen

Herald Writer

It's not every day that a film director offers to write, produce and direct a movie about a high school band. But when Joe Gonzalez heard Miami Beach Senior High's band, Rock Ensemble, perform last June, he offered members this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Since 1972, a select group of talented and motivated Beach High students has joined together from all over Miami Beach to form the Rock Ensemble.

This year, the 25 high school musicians have been chosen as characters in a movie about their trials and tribulations. The musical comedy, Beach High is the story about what these kids go through in a semester of school. ``What keeps these kids together,'' said Gonzalez, ``is their love for the arts.''

The film is being shown in the Beach High auditorium at 6 p.m. Friday. Admission is $2, with all the proceeds going to the school. A video copy of the movie will be available through the school in two to three months, according to Gonzalez.

Doug Burris, the group's director, is proud of the Rock Ensemble's accomplishments this year, which include performing at the Special Olympics, receiving a first-place trophy at the Mid-West Music Festival in Chicago, and at this same festival, winning the grand champion award for best in the festival.

``The ensemble is a different experience than most kids have,'' said Burris. ``You have to be really motivated. It's an individual performing experience directed to the kid who wants to be on stage.''

Gonzalez and Burris have much confidence in these talented performers. Each band member has his or her own talents, like Melissa Gomez, who is a Spanish reggae rapper. The first time Melissa saw the band perform, she thought ``it was off the hook.''

But Burris and Gonzalez aren't the only ones who are happy with the performers. The stars themselves are very proud of their success, and are enthusiastic about their future.

``The band accomplished so much,'' says Talita Real, a 10th-grader and vocalist in the band. ``Rock Ensemble is everyone's second family, it's not just an after-school activity or something you get credit for.''

``I joined because I was inspired by Doug,'' says Tennille Maisner, a senior vocalist. Maisner plans on pursuing a career in music education or music therapy.

The Rock Ensemble is a very big part of their lives. Practices and rehearsals run after school. ``It's not just a hobby,'' said Talita. ``It's our lives.''