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High school bands cap off stellar season

by | Nov 17, 2022 | Latest

Both Wylie bands capped off their seasons with a performance at the UIL State Marching Band Competition in San Antonio last week.

The bands at Wylie East High School and Wylie High School both qualified for the competition following a top six finish at the UIL Area Competition Oct. 29.

Wylie High Director of Bands Todd Dixon said his band finished 21st overall in the state competition, which he was pleased with but emphasized it was about more than the number placement.

“That’s the highest we’ve ranked in 6A,” Dixon said. “If you’re just thinking about the rankings, it’s just a number.”

He added that he remains focused on the refinement of performances over the course of the marching season.

“Our thing with the kids is do what you can do and the rest will take care of itself,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the performance was the best of the season, to which drum majors Alexis Mora, Ximena Fernandez de Jauregei, Kylie Kaneshige, Jackson Slaughter and Joanna Ononogbu agreed.

The atmosphere in San Antonio did not disappoint either, said Joanna, because of the band’s following.

“My whole family was down there with us,” Joanna said. “To know that we had that level of support was the best feeling.”

Ximena, a senior, said she was happy that the band made it to the state competition because of the expectations coming into the year.

This season’s theme was “Canyons,” said Dixon, adding that the band only performed music by American composers dedicated to sites such as the Grand Canyon.

“We wanted a theme that people could attach themselves to,” Dixon said. “We took things that are Americana. When people look at these places, they can associate it with music.”

Aside from an excellent performance at the San Antonio competition, That Wylie Band was named champion of a marching competition the weekend of Oct. 8 in McKinney, said Dixon. The band also performed at the regional contest Oct. 18 where it was designated as a first division performance for the 32nd consecutive year.

“We like understanding our legacy and tying things to it,” Dixon said.

Additionally, students put in hundreds of hours rehearsing and performing throughout a school year, said Kylie. Dixon added that he calculated 96 hours are spent in summer rehearsals prior to the start of school.

During a normal school week, students are putting in eight hours outside of school hours, said Dixon.

Ximena called the activity fulfilling and said the final performances were bittersweet.

“Now that we’re over, part of me feels sad,” Ximena said. “We dedicate this much time and I’m never going to do it again in high school.”

Summarizing the season, Dixon said he is proud of all 290 students in the band, adding that it is the only academic activity where students show off their performances publicly.

“We’re the only thing in public education that is seen in a public setting,” Dixon said. “We’re taking kids that are first chair and last chair from different backgrounds and abilities and putting them out there to be equal. You see them out there and the expectation is that they’re all the same.”

Wylie East High School’s band, The Pride of the East, put on a similarly stellar season, finishing 23rd in the state competition. 

Wylie East High Director of Bands Greg Hayes said the band put on a good performance at the state competition in San Antonio considering that many of the 14 finalists regularly occupy those positions.

“We feel like we have a chance in the future to break into that,” Hayes said. “Those are some of the very elite bands in the United States.”

To compete alongside the stiff competition was a “remarkable accomplishment,” said Hayes, adding that he is proud of the way his students acquitted themselves throughout the season. 

Throughout the season, The Pride of the East was a strong competitor including a second place finish at the McKinney Invitational the weekend of Oct. 8. It also finished fifth in the UIL Area C Marching Competition for District 6A to advance to the state marching band championship.

Additionally, Hayes said his student leaders have played a major role in shaping the goals for the season.

“We try to align our goals with what our students want to fulfill,” Hayes said. “We as a staff align ourselves with what our students, family and community wants from the band.”

Rehearsals for this year’s marching band began the last week of July, said Hayes, with practices held in the early morning to avoid the summer heat. Once school starts, rehearsals are strictly limited to no more than 8 hours outside of school hours weekly, he added.

“What these guys are able to accomplish in that amount of time is incredible,” Hayes said. “A lot of bands around the country, some of the great bands you see, are rehearsing their kids 20 to 30 hours outside the school day. We’re fortunate to be in Texas where we have that rule that limits that.”

This year’s theme was “Reimagine,” said Hayes, which was based on the John Lennon hit “Imagine.” The performance starts with a fugue in a minor key, which presents a very “dark” picture but the performance slowly shifts to a major key and ends on notes of “hope and happiness,” he added.

“We wanted to have a message that we could give to the kids and the kids could give to their audience about imagining if we could all come together and find common ground in creating a world full of peace,” Hayes said. 

As part of the performance, the band used several props to convey a scene, which would not have been possible without parents assisting in the design and construction of the sets, said Hayes.

“These guys go the extra mile for us,” Hayes said. “They’ve done an incredible job; we couldn’t do it without our band parents building our props for us.”

Similar to Dixon, Hayes said that marching band is the highest level of education because it combines musicianship, excellence in acting and precision into one, 8-minute show.

“They’re having to analyze, synthesize and integrate so much all at once, that it truly is the greatest of the fine arts activities,” Hayes said.

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