Becoming one with the power of music: Trooper Band

On November 4, Trooper Marching Band competed at the annual Tournament of Bands held at New Mexico State University. There were 36 bands participating in this competition. They placed ninth out of tens bands participating in the finals. The theme for this years production was called "Interstellar". They took this 8-minute performance onto the field with confidence after all the hard work and dedication that went into putting it together. 

Christian Sermeño went on with pride for his band when he went out for his last marching band competition of his high school career. 

"It’s the competition that we practice all year for," Sermeño said. "As we took the field, I felt that I personally was well prepared."

His pride in the band showed when they made it through to the top 10 overall which out them into the finals.

"As the show unfolded for a second time in finals, I noticed that we did not sound as good as we usually do," Sermeño said. "Nonetheless, I am still happy that the band made it to finals all 3 times that we have gone to Tournament of the Bands."

Drum Major Matthew Carr says that there is a lot of preparation that goes behind this production. 

"Our workouts start about two weeks after school is out in June," Carr said. "They’re twice a week for about two hours."

Band isn't just about learning how to play an instrument, they go through intense workouts to also learn how to use their bodies.

"These workouts are really important because a lot of these students underestimate the physical stamina that band requires," Carr said. "They’ll need to be able to move their bodies at very fast times in a controlled way all while playing and maintaining a steady air stream."

After the summer practices are over, competition preparation intensifies. They start practices a month before school starts, Monday through Friday for 8 hours. Once school begins, they practice every morning for an hour and two hours on Monday nights.

Carr believes that the number one thing to be aware about during this preparation is their bodies.

 "The most difficult thing for a lot of the students is learning body awareness, this is where I and the other leaders come in," Carr said. "We need to teach them to move in ways they haven’t moved before, in alignment with time and a certain technique."

Tournament of Bands 2017

Training to play their instruments while including drill is the biggest challenge for the students.

"After about a week and half of giving them a vast tool box of things they will need to use we can start learning drill," Carr said. "On average we have about 50 drill sets in a show."

Drills in band are simply practicing different formations and motions that are supposed to be happening during a production.

"To learn drill is fairly difficult because you have visualize the field as a coordinate grid," Carr said. "Once they get the gist of the drill we add music."

Carr says that process of cleaning movements and formation becomes more difficult when everyone starts playing their instrument. It requires a vast amount of focus on both the music and movement.

Band director Bryan Andrade believes there performance at Tournament of Bands was affected by many factors. 

"We have a brand new drill writer this year that brought some new ideas and a new way of writing drill for us," Andrade said. " I think we found somebody we really like."

Andrade said the band got a lot of great compliments from universities about how good the sound concept was.

"A lot of the kids are dedicated and work really hard," Andrade said. "It is difficult because we have seniors to freshmen."  

The seniors in band have a lot of experience in competing and performing while the freshmen come in without knowing what to expect. 

"It's tough to train the new members to be at the same level of the more experienced players," Andrade said.

Band competed in two competitions prior to TOB, El Paso Band Contest and the UIL Band Contest.

"I think our biggest weakness is finishing," Andrade said. "We got comfortable after playing well at our first competitions that we didn't push through to the end."

While band set a high standard in the top 10, Andrade believes they could've placed higher. 

"They really worked hard but on that Saturday I don't think we did as well as we could have," Andrade said. 

Band competitions are different from other competitive sports. Their placement is solely dependent on opinions. 

After Tournament of Bands (Photo by Bryan Andrade)

"In our field [band] it is based on opinions of seven judges," Andrade said. "On any given day with any group of judges it could've been different."

Andrade believes rehearsal technique is big when preparing for competitions like so.

"We need to do what we want to do in performance in rehearsal," Andrade said. "If they play really well in rehearsal everyday but don't march as well, then their playing is going to be sacrificed during the actual performance."

Although marching season is over, band still has a lot to look forward to.

"We have solo and ensemble in February, concert site reading at the end of March, All Region, [which leads to all state] and we are also traveling in the spring," Andrade said.

No matter what they win in competition, Andrade has a different mindset for the Trooper band.

"Our main goal is to entertain an audience because that's really what artists do," Andrade said. "I think that's really more important than winning a trophy or a banner."