Lyford Sounds: Small town school marching band makes big things happen

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LYFORD, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Some cities have amusement parks, iconic landmarks, or other places of interest. Lyford has the Bulldogs.

All throughout this city of about 2,500 are homages to the Bulldogs, the town’s coveted high school mascot.

A mural showcasing Lyford’s adoration for the Bulldogs
(photo: Nathaniel Puente)

This Willacy County town takes pride in what happens on the gridiron Fridays during football season.

And there every step of the way, carrying the beat of the city while creating award-winning performances is the Lyford Bulldog Marching Band.

Program directors build a tight community around their students while ensuring they’re able to compete in everything they want.

“With such a small student body, we have kids in football, dance, and other things that are also in band,” said Victoria Vasquez Gonzalez, Lyford High School’s band director. “We have to find a way to accommodate students for everything they want to do.”

Vasquez Gonzalez has brought a theme of success to the Bulldog band. Under her 13 years of leadership, the program has reached the finals of the state marching band competition, earned numerous 1st division awards, and competed well in just about every competition they come across.

A small section of the large Lyford band trophy case
(photo: Sal Castro ValleyCentral.com

Despite these successes, Vasquez Gonzalez said she’s focused first on having the students enjoy their performance before impressing the judges with their marching show.

This year, the Bulldog band is following a show theme of revival and reawakening as an honor to the fact the marching band did not perform last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To punctuate this theme, the band is performing music composed in the late-1960s, early 1970s, giving the show a “flower power” vibe. Some of the music performed includes “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams and “The Age of Aquarius” by The Fifth Dimension.

It takes around a year of preparation for the band to solidify their performance.

“As soon as one season ends we start moving on to talk about the next one,” said Vasquez Gonzalez. “We discuss where we want the band to be and what we need to do to get the program to that point.”

Staff members lead the band to be the best they can be. Victoria Vasquez Gonzalez, pictured on right, serves as the head band director
(photo: Sal Castro)

The director described the planning has to be fluid as some things they try to implement may not work as well as others. It takes sharp leadership and judgment to be able to make changes that will improve the band’s performance.

This seems to work for the students, who are thrilled to be a part of the Lyford Bulldog Band.

“Joining marching band is the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Emily Soto, drum major, trumpeter. “It’s better than any activity I’ve been in, I’ve made new friends, made awesome memories, and it helped me prepare for leadership roles.”

Soto admits she did not even know what a trumpet was when she first picked up the instrument in her middle school years, but now she’s grown to adore the music and the performances she’s been a part of.

Similarly, Viviana Tamez, the Lyford band’s other drum major who plays flute, stated joining the band was a great choice she made, as it’s helped her be more open and outspoken.

“When I first joined, I was so shy, but now I see it as a great decision to join because the relationships I’ve made here are unreplaceable,” said Tamez. “There’s no other feeling like performing with your band, it’s so thrilling and exhilarating.”

Emily Soto, trumpet, and Viviana Tamez, flute, both serve as drum majors for the Lyford Bulldog Band (photo: Sal Castro)

Soto and Tamez both plan to pursue music in some way after high school and take the knowledge they’ve formed at Lyford everywhere they go.

Overlooking the awards and performances that she’s overseen, Vasquez Gonzalez states the best part of her job is the relationships she makes with her students.

“You have a relationship with these students that will carry on for the rest of their lives,” said Vasquez Gonzalez. “I have students who have their own careers and lives now and I’m still a part of them from a distance. That connection is always there.”

Lyford marching band seasons may pass, but the experiences made on the field, in the band hall, or on statewide trips will last forever.

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