The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

Hudson Woods throws his arms out after a play before getting into position
Hudson Woods climbs to new heights after standout sophomore season
Jonathan Jones, Sports Writer • May 18, 2024
Joshua Velasquez committed to serving his country in the U.S. Army.
Beyond basic
Margaret Edmonson, Adviser • May 17, 2024
Sydney Rakowitz will study education and training and music at the University of Incarnate Word.
Seniors sign to continue athletic, non-athletic careers
Valley Ventana, Staff • May 16, 2024
Boy Scouts of America announced on May 7 the organizations name will change to Scouting America on the organizations 115th birthday Feb. 8, 2025. Photo by JV via
Boy Scouts changing name after 115 years
Grayson Cook, Staff writer • May 15, 2024
The top 15 students in the senior class receive special recognition at graduation on May 22 due to their hard work throughout high school. 
Graphic by Alex Whelchel via Canva
Profile: Top 15 seniors
Alex Whelchel, Managing Editor • May 13, 2024

Senior Spotlight: Cello-brating music

Senior, student music teacher plans a career in music education
Senior Sydney Rakowitz plays her cello at YOSA last year. She will attend UIW in the fall with a major in music education. Photo via Sydney Rackowitz

Senior Sydney Rakowitz is the orchestra president, but she never wanted to join orchestra.

“Before middle school, I wanted to be in theater,” she said. “I did various (theater) camps. When my mom wanted me to do orchestra for one year, I ended up falling in love with it.”

As a violinist herself, Sydney’s mom, Amanda Rakowitz encourages all her children to take at least one year of music. 

“Sydney grew up watching her sister play piano and violin,” Amanda said. “Somehow, even though she didn’t want to follow in anyone’s footsteps, she found herself in middle school orchestra playing the cello.”

Although she never planned on joining orchestra, Sydney is now planning a career surrounding it. She will major in music education at the University of Incarnate Word in the fall with hopes of one day becoming an elementary music teacher.

“Since I could walk I wanted to be a teacher,” Sydney said. “I realized I (could)  put my two passions together: music and teaching. That’s where music education came into play.”

Sydney joined the Ready Set Teach program this year and began student teaching at Rahe Bulverde Elementary School for music teacher Lyndsea Woodall.

“She has the professional and academic strengths in conjunction with a genuine love of music and kids,” Woodall said. “ Sydney is going to make an excellent teacher for a lot of reasons, but I think her biggest strengths as an educator are her work ethic and desire to always improve.”

Since joining the program, Sydney has seen how fulfilling teaching the younger generation can be. 

“I love (student teaching),” Sydney said. “The relationships you get to build (are my favorite). Helping them with music and seeing them grow in their love for music, that’s something I love. I want to share my passion with younger generations.”

Not only has she grown in her musical abilities, but Sydney has also grown in her teaching.

“It can be scary to be in front of a group of students that you don’t know,” Woodall said.  “She was unsure of herself at first, and although she had great instincts, she sometimes didn’t know if she should follow them. It has been really special to watch her find her stride with the kids and grow in confidence in her instruction and correction.”

Along with student teaching, Rakowitz is senior class vice president, a member of the National Honor Society and Historian of the student council.

She also participated in the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio last year in which she was ranked first in the philharmonic.

“I was surprised (when I got ranked first),” Sydney said. “You don’t hear a lot of Comal ISD people that are in orchestra, so when everyone heard that I got there in that position (they) were surprised. It was really cool to shed light on us.”

Additionally, Sydney was also the first sophomore to participate as a fellow in the Cactus Pear music festival two years ago.

“I would say that was my proudest moment of her,” Amanda said. “She worked with really talented and intense professional musicians from around the world and was able to play some very demanding repertoire in classical music in a small ensemble.”

Although she never wanted to join orchestra, Sydney is glad she stuck with it, even through the hard moments.

“It’s not always fun,” she said. “Especially with improving technique, but with time I’ve grown so attached to the cello and the community I’ve created with it, it’s become something I really love.”

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