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Fine and Performing Arts

Fine and Performing Arts | 2025 E. Winsett, Tucson, AZ 85719 | (520) 225-4900 |



  • Astor Piazzolla's Tangos Find Their Groove in Tucson Unified (in PDF)

    Andrew Nickles, a veteran middle school guitar and orchestra instructor in TUSD for 15 years recently released his first CD on the Centaur Records label with the ensemble Piazzolla da Camera. The group consists of Dr. Oscar Macchioni on piano, Carla Kountoupes, a former TUSD music director on violin, and Andrew on cello. The ensemble first formed in 1999 while Oscar, a native of Tucuman, Argentina, was earning his doctorate at the University of Arizona. Since that time, the group has performed at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, they’ve toured Thailand, and have enjoyed wowing audiences all over the desert southwest including El Paso, Tucson, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe.
     The CD features the works of Argentine tango master, Astor Piazzolla, including his Four Seasons (Cuatro Estaciones Portenas), Le Grand Tango, and fan favorites like Muerte del Angel, a rambunctious fugue in sonata form interrupted by a Cole Porter-esque ballad, and Milonga del Angel, which Andrew helped to arrange for cello. Piazzolla’s biographer Maria Susana Azzi, who wrote Le Grand Tango: The Life and Music of Astor Piazzolla, listened to the group’s CD and said this about the group’s freshman offering:  "...Their fiery, sexy and very polished performances join tradition with a refined approach to the interpretation of Piazzolla’s music: a whole world of tango that is wild, tender, caressing, brutal and melancholic. Their performance will steal everybody’s heart.” 
     The CD is a labor of love for Andrew, who at 17, lost his Argentine mother, Ana, to cancer. He remembers visiting his family in Buenos Aires as a boy and being immersed in the Argentine culture in Sparks, Nevada where he grew up. Andrew spoke only Spanish to his mother, as it was her wish was to preserve her culture through language, food, music, and soccer in the home. Andrew went on to pursue a French degree at the University of Arizona while earning a degree in Music and still practices his Spanish when given the chance. Also of note, is the cover art to the CD, painted by Josh Goldberg, also a former TUSD art instructor, titled ‘Age of Blue Memory.’ 
     ‘This album is my musical offering to my beloved parents who spent thousands of dollars of their teachers’ salaries to see me develop an art form and to find my voice through that art. I want to instill that same sense of pride and purpose in my students, so that they know that not only do they matter, but that their creativity could one day inspire generations, much as the tangos of Buenos Aires have inspired me.’  The CD will be available on iTunes and Amazon on June 1st and is available in limited quantities directly from Andrew. 









Congratulations! It’s Official – TUSD Fine Arts/OMA Received a 2018 Best Communities for

Music Education Award


TUSD's Music Education Program Receives National Recognition
Tucson Unified School District named a Best Community for Music for the 4th time

Tucson, Arizona. (April 17, 2018) – The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Acknowledged for the third consecutive year, TUSD is the only school district in Arizona to receive this recognition.

The Best Communities Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

Dr. Joan Ashcraft, TUSD Director of Fine Arts/OMA, credits this achievement to the remarkably dedicated and uniquely talented music staff that serves the District’s 49,000 students. "Our 16 year research study, conducted initially by WestEd, Inc., has provided robust evidence to fully support the importance of music in the education of children: academically, artistically, and socially. We are grateful for TUSD Leadership’s unwavering support of our mission and goals."

Community music programs have been drawing increased attention because of a landmark study by Northwestern University brain scientists. These researchers found new links between students in school music programs and academic achievement.




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