Greg Mills, Director of Bands
Mr. Mills is currently the Director of Bands at William H. Taft High School. A native of Arizona, he began his musical study in 1996 on the piano. Shortly after, he picked up the saxophone and studied with Michael Wojciechowicz. Following high school, Mills studied saxophone performance and music education at Arizona State University under the musical guidance of Dr. Timothy McAllister who currently teaches as the professor of saxophone at the University of Michigan School of Music and studied conducting privately with Gary Hills and Dr. Wayne Bailey.
During his time at Arizone State, Mills served for three years as the drum major for the 400 member, Sudler Trophy winning Sun Devil Marching Band under the direction of James Hudson. Mills also composed and arranged selections for the band while taking composition lessons from breathing gym creator Samuel Pilafian (tuba chair of the Boston Brass). In addition to his time with the Athletic Band program, Mills was a member and officer of the Beta Omicron chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity, the principle saxophonist of the ASU wind ensemble, a low brass member of the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, and the soprano saxophone chair of the nationally competitive Paradigm Shift Saxophone Quartet.
Since his relocation to Texas, Mr. Mills was hired as the Associate Director of Bands at Taft High School in San Antonio's Northside Independent School District. He was later promoted to the Director of Bands in May of 2019. As the director of bands, Mr. Mills leads the team-taught marching band program, conducts the Taft Wind Ensemble, and team teaches the Taft Jazz Ensemble with fellow directors Rick Astorga and Robert Soto. His bands have continuously received 1 ratings at UIL contests since his employment at Taft HS. Mills also actively teaches saxophone privately. His students have gone on to be accepted into region bands, area bands, the Texas all-state band and national programs such as the Interlochen Summer Arts Academy in Michigan. He is a member of the Texas Bandmaster's Association, the Texas Music Educators Association, and a lifetime member of Kappa Kappa Psi- National Honorary Band Fraternity.
In addition to his work at Taft, Mr. Mills also serves as the Texas Music Educators Association Region 29 Band Division Chairman which serves the students and band directors of Northside ISD, San Antonio ISD, Kerrville ISD, and Boerne ISD.
Greg and his wife Leslie both live in San Antonio with their son Ezra and their 85 pound goldendoodle Bo. They enjoy visiting the many Texas State Parks located throughout the Hill Country and hiking on the weekends.
Rick Astorga, Associate Director of Bands
Rick Astorga is the Associate Director of Bands and the Director of Percussion at William Howard Taft High School in San Antonio, TX, where his responsibilities include teaching drumline, front ensemble, concert percussion, steel drum band, concert band, as well as teaching percussion at Zachry and Briscoe Middle Schools.
While at Taft, the band has qualified numerous times for the UIL State Marching Competition including 2014 with the production “H”. Taft premiered their first ever steel drum ensemble under the direction of Mr. Astorga and has performed as a musical showcase at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention in 2016 and in 2018. Taft also took 1st place in their class at the Dripping Springs Drumline Contest in 2017. Aside from his teaching assignments at Taft, Mr. Astorga is a percussion judge for The Texas Educational Colorguard Association. In 2018, Mr. Astorga presented a clinic at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention entitled “Beginning 4 Mallets for the Non-Percussion Director.” He also has articles published on banddirectorstalkshop.com and has presented as a clinician at Texas State University, University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of the Incarnate Word.
Rick Astorga attended Texas State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education, studying percussion with Genaro Gonzalez and drum set with jazz legend Butch Miles. Mr. Astorga has many years of experience in the diverse aspect of percussion. In 2005 and 2006 he marched with Revolution Drum and Bugle Corps which received 2nd place in the DCI Championships, and was selected to be a member of the DCI Honor Corps in 2005 marching in the Walt Disney Day Parade which aired on NBC. He has also performed with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Austin Symphony Orchestra. As a drumline instructor, Astorga has had the privilege of working with many award winning groups such as Texas State University Drumline, WGI World Class Indoor Drumline Imperial Percussion Theatre, 5 Points Percussion, and Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps.
Currently, Rick Astorga serves as a coordinator for the Texas State University Percussion Summer Camp since 2008 and has worked alongside educators such as Murray Gussack, Mike Macintosh, Bill Bachman, Glen Crosby, Ney Rosaro, Ndugu Chancler, Arthur Lipner, Gary Gibson, Tom Aungst, Paul Wortico, Chris Hanning, Ed Soph, Butch Miles, Rick Latham, Chester Thompson, and Zoro.
Rick Astorga plays drums for Grace Point Church in San Antonio and is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, the Texas Band Masters Association, the Percussive Arts Society, is an endorser and a member of the Education Team for Vic Firth, and is an Zildjian Cymbal artist.
Robert Soto, Associate Director of Bands
Trombonist and Educator Robert Soto is a native of El Paso, Texas. He has performed and taught across the United States, Mexico, Canada, England and Brazil. He has worked with such artists as Sir Neville Marriner, Dave Taylor, Gary Foster, Brad Leali, Bill Reichenbach, Tito Puente Jr and jazz legend Dave Brubeck as well as composers Alan Silvestri, Eric Nathan and Frank Ticheli. Robert has also recorded/performed with a variety of groups including the El Paso Wind Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Golden State Pops Symphony Orchestra, Clare Fischer/Brent Fischer Jazz Group, Elliot Deutsch Big Band, Conjunto Oye and on the IFC series Comedy Bang, Bang! He has performed with the Yale Philharmonia at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Hungarian Revolution at Carnegie Hall in NYC, Birmingham and Wigan Jazz Festivals in England, the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) convention, the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) convention and the Music for All National Festival and Summer Symposium sponsored by Yamaha.
As a featured soloist, Robert has performed at the Texas Tech Big XII Trombone Conference, with the El Segundo Concert Band and Fullerton College Symphonic Winds and at the Southern California Trombone Day. Since coming to Los Angeles in 2008, Robert has been in demand as a freelance trombonist, private instructor, conductor and guest clinician. He has worked with a variety of music programs ranging from beginning bands, middle school/high school ensembles, college/university groups and community bands. Robert has served on the brass staffs for the Blue Knights, Sacramento Mandarins, DCI World Champion Cavaliers, Boston Crusaders and The Battalion Drum & Bugle Corps. Robert holds a Bachelor in Music Education (Cum Laude) from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Master in Music Performance from Yale University, School of Music. He has studied trombone with Scott Hartman, Steve Norrell, John Lofton, Steve Wilson, Allan Kaplan and Robert Melendez. His conducting studies were with Dr. Ron Hufstader and Maestro Toshiyuki Shimada. In 2013, Robert was selected to attend the Pokorny Low Brass Seminar, where he studied with members of the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago Symphony Orchestras.
Robert has served as the Director of Bands at Norte Vista High School, El Segundo Middle School/High School, and as Adjunct Professor of Trombone at Fullerton College. He has also taught at Ayala HS and Chino Hills HS. As of June 2019, Mr. Soto relocated to San Antonio to become the Assistant Director of Bands at William H. Taft High School. Off the podium, Robert enjoys family time with his wife April, their daughter Camila and their furry pets. Robert Soto is a performing artist and educator for the Yamaha Corporation of America and performs on Yamaha trombones exclusively.
Jacob Barrientes, Director of Color Guard
As a San Antonio native, Jacob is a graduate of Harlandale High School. He started his first teaching position serving as the Assistant Director of Colorguard for Earl Warren High School (2017-2020). During his time with the program he helped lead the Colorguard Organization to many Outstanding Colorguard Awards in the Marching Season. The Indoor Winter Season Program is a 4 time WGI Scholastic Open Finalist as well their JV Program being named a WGI San Antonio Scholastic Regional A Finalist in 2020 under his direction. He has worked with other programs in the San Antonio area such as McCollum HS & Southwest HS writing choreography.
Mr. Barrientes has DCI & WGI experience in the color guard activity. He marched with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps Colorguard for the 2019 Drum Corps International Season where they won the George Zingali Best Color Guard Award. He then marched an Independent Winter Guard Program, ORIGINS based out of Austin, TX for the 2020 Winter Guard International Season.
Jacob currently also serves as the Historian for the Texas Educational Colorguard Association Circuit.
Alejandro Martinez, Student Teacher
Alejandro Martinez is currently a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) pursuing his undergraduate degree in music education. He is a San Antonio native and as a Communications Arts graduate, will be returning to the Taft Raider Band as a Clinical Teacher rather than a student. His primary instrument is the trumpet which he studied at UTSA with Dr. Joseph Cooper, the current Assistant Professor of Trumpet at Oklahoma State University, and Professor Jeff Castle, who before retiring from the Air Force, held a position in the prestigious Air Force Band of the West.
During his time at UTSA, Alejandro has been an active member of UTSA’s marching band, The Spirit of San Antonio (SOSA), a 320 member ensemble under the direction of Professor Ron Ellis. SOSA is one of the youngest college marching band programs in Texas and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this upcoming 2020 season. Alejandro has held leadership positions in several music organizations on campus while pursuing his degree including; Section leader for three seasons with SOSA, Chapter President for the Nu Eta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity for two years, and a founding member and President of the Trumpet Association at UTSA for one year.
Alejandro is also a member of the International Trumpet Guild where he has had the opportunity to attend the annual conferences in San Antonio, TX (2018) and Miami, Florida (2019), where he was able to see concerts, masterclasses, and clinics presented by world-class trumpet performers and educators. Outside of music, Alejandro also enjoys regular exercise including weight lifting and hikes, as well as the occasional video gaming session with friends.