Saturday was a miserable day to be dressed in full band attire. It was a warm day and Delmar Stadium is entirely exposed. But over 20 schools had agreed to perform at the HISD Marching Band Festival, and perform they did.
The bands came, the bands played and everyone went home mostly content and most definitely sweaty. In between, everything from the energetic performance of Yates High's smallish band to the wonderfully choreographed display from Westside High's massive group was a delight for those who came out. Mostly the crowd consisted of parents, fellow bands and a group from Paul Revere Middle School -- which was taking notes and discussing the afternoon's performances -- but enough of a crowd to let bands know they were playing with a purpose.
If those weren't stakes enough, there were three volunteer adjudicators preparing critiques for each performance. Lastly, there was the respective band director to please.
"I told them, I know this ain't an actual competition, but y'all are here to perform," said Renford Joseph, band director of Worthing High. "They know if they don't play well, it's going to be a long bus ride back to Worthing."
One by one the schools paraded -- some in more pronounced fashion then others -- into the stadium. One would finish and then the 15-minute timer would begin on the next. With many programs, it was clear that the first couple months of the school year had been focused on either the music or the marching, not necessarily both. For some, it appeared the band had been together for longer than late August. Or maybe they just managed to hide the flaws of the freshman class better than others. That's where having numbers could help.
As Hair Balls mentioned before the weekend, this was not an official UIL competition, with stakes on the table.
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"There was no winners or losers," Dr. Susan Vaughan wrote in an email. "This was about kids in HISD seeing other bands perform, having kids learn about quality performances and how they are made. And, this was about supporting our bands, giving dignity to all groups regardless of their size, style of marching, or approach to music. I believe we achieved our goals, and as a result, all of our bands next year will be better." Vaughan is HISD's secondary fine arts curriculum manager.
With UIL competition looming in the coming weeks, the festival served as a warm-up in a competition setting. In all, 16 high schools demonstrating their respective marching and musical abilities, while five middle schools performed a range of songs they've been working on.
Many of the students and directors went home happy with the experience, others, like Austin High and its director, Keavon Runnels, weren't so pleased. "They choked out there," Runnels said afterward.
Fortunately, there's still some time to be show-ready.