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Former Sweetwater district arts chief honored with department name Phillip Brents | Sat, Feb 25 2012 12:00 AM

The Sweetwater Union High School District has announced that its Visual and Performing Arts Department will now be known as the William Virchis Visual and Performing Arts Department. This marks the first time a curriculum and program district department will be named after an individual.

Virchis was the founding director of the district’s internationally known VAPA department.

In his tenure, Virchis and his staff oversaw and organized the largest mariachi and folklorico program in the nation.  The VAPA study on the impact of visual and performing arts on grade point averages and test scores was the first to show in a comprehensive districtwide study how students who took VAPA courses received higher GPAs and showed an overall improvement in their test scores.

The VAPA curriculum programs had the biggest growth and prosperity during his tenure.

Virchis brought back the district’s annual summer play with his direction of the world premiere play “Elena,” starring guest artist Daniel Valdez of “Zoot Suit,” “La Bamba,” “China Syndrome” and Teatro Campesino fame. 

Virchis also broadened the scope of the district’s summer music camp to include mariachi music, folklorico dance and theater that premiered at the first summer camp showcase at Eastlake High School.

“The success of the VAPA programs during my tenure was due to the superintendents, board members, exceptional support of the district staff, the greatest and most creative faculty, the multi-talented students, the principals that were in charge of the VAPA programs at their schools, the stakeholders and the VAPA staff,” Virchis said.

Community and business leaders gathered to honor Virchis at the department’s naming ceremony on Thursday.

“This is an unbelievable moment in one’s life on this planet,” Virchis said. “The building is brick and mortar but what lives, works and comes out of the building for the benefit of all students, faculty and community is the true testament of the support that this district has for the arts.”

He continued, “My family has been in Chula Vista since 1951.  I sold newspapers on these grounds when it was a produce warehouse and then Ratners Clothing Outlet, and to have my family name associated with such a building is the greatest honor one can have bestowed upon them. It is a humbling moment and words can’t express the gratitude and honor that it is.  I am deeply honored to those loyal and supportive friends who have been a part of my life.”

An integral part of San Diego’s performing arts education for more than 30 years, Virchis has also served as an instructor and director in the Southwestern College theater department.

A resident of Chula Vista since 1951 when his family moved from Mexico City, Virchis is an alumnus of Chula Vista High School, Southwestern College and San Diego State University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and received the Sybil Eliza Jones scholarship for outstanding achievement in drama. His post-graduate work took him to the University of Mexico City, the same city in which he was born.

He is the co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Meta-Old Globe Theatre and also a co-founder and artistic director of Teatro Máscara Mágica: A Common Ground Theatre, which has been associated with the San Diego Repertory Theatre company, where he also has directed, and the Old Globe Theatre company for more than 20 years.

Virchis has directed on both sides of the border, working in many other well known theaters across the Southwest, Mexico and Canada, including more than 30 world college premiere plays. As president and CEO of Virco Enterprises, a production coordinating company, he has helped to produce the International Mariachi Festival for more than 20 years and has been instrumental in the coordination of numerous civic and state events for the San Diego community.

More recently, Virchis was selected in 2009 to be the first high school honor theater director for the San Diego Unified School District, and directed for Fiesta de Reyes in the Old Town Historical Park. He has worked with Tri-Star, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers on films and on musical scores for records, plays, television, commercials, theater and radio.

A few career highlights include staging the reenactment of the landing of Cabrillo under the U.S. Department of Interior, directing the national tour of the world premiere musical “Selena Forever” and the musical “Let the Eagle Fly: the Cesar Chavez Story,” a work he personally holds in very high esteem.

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