Weslaco Sounds: High school bands prepare to march into football season

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Weslaco East High School Wildcat Regiment (source: WEHS Wildcat)

WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Several school organizations are anticipating the beginning of the high school football season.

With the return of Friday Night Lights, not only are the football teams themselves hyped to hit the gridiron but other school teams are excited as well.

Cheerleaders are perfecting their routines for the Friday night games, color guards are choreographing their shows, and the marching bands are preparing for a long season of competition that continues on after the football season.

For both marching bands at the Weslaco Independent School District’s two high schools, the new football season is a chance to show off months of work that’s gone into creating a memorable halftime performance.

Weslaco High’s Panther Corps and Weslaco East’s Wildcat Regiment have spent all summer finalizing their shows and are thrilled to show off what they’ve put together during the upcoming halftime shows.

Whenever these two Weslaco schools face-off, it’s colloquially known as the Tinaco Bowl, a rivalry named in honor of the city’s water tower.

While many cross-town rivalries involve trash-talking, citywide division, and a chance for one side to show up the other, the Weslaco matchup is treated as a celebration of the city and the bands look at it as business as usual.

“We’re one town, one team. Weslaco is Weslaco whether it’s east or west,” said Rodrigo Leal, Weslaco High School band director. “It’s good friendly competition but in the end, we’re one town.”

“There’s the same amount of preparation [for this game] we would usually do,” said Riley Caballero, Weslaco East High School head drum major. “There’s gonna be a lot more people cause it’s the Tinaco Bowl and the first game, but we should be prepared and do well.”

Weslaco ISD announced hours before the game that the Tinaco Bowl would not be taking place.

Weslaco High’s Panther Corps band prepares for the start of the season (source: Weslaco High School Music Department)

Instead, both schools are focused on doing their best when they get their time to shine.

Weslaco High is using a theme of “Lost” in their performance this year. This means they are taking a sporadic approach at their show, with band members planned to move in rapid, seemingly random motions while the music looks to convey this message as well.

Leal hopes this show can impress judges and wow their audiences as they hope to perfect it throughout the season.

Meanwhile, Weslaco East’s show is titled “Carnival In the Sky.” This will be the second year that this show is used by Weslaco East, as last year’s show was severely cut back due to COVID-19 regulations.

In this show, the Weslaco East band will honor passed love ones. The show is based on a story of a girl who is asked what she would do if she had one last day with her grandma, and the child chooses to go to the carnival.

Previously, the band was instructed to only perform classical music to impress judges, but directors have chosen to let the students play more modern songs to appease the band.

Band instructors hope this method will allow the students to enjoy the music they’re playing while also impressing the judges at their shows.

“We cater to everyone. We cater to the kids’ needs, the judges’ needs, and the crowd needs,” said Armando Cuellar, Weslaco East High School band director. “Whether we’re playing newer songs or more traditional music, we can perform it in a way that will impress everyone.”

Weslaco East’s Wildcat Regiment prepares for the start of the season (source: WEHS Wildcat Regiment Facebook)

Investing the crowd in their performance is something important for many marching bands. Adding a level of excitement to the games is one way the marching band contributes to the high-energy atmosphere of high school football.

“These football games are composed of every single organization we have to offer,” said Leal. “Our band offers excitement and motivation.”

While most people are only familiar with what marching bands do at football games, directors stress that their competitions continue long after the end of the football season.

“There’s so many different parts of marching band people don’t know of,” said Leal. “We have a lot of individual competitions, drumline competitions, concert recitals, jazz band, and just so many competitions.”

“Even when football season is on, we have our own competition called ‘All-Region’ where the kids learn music and compete,” said Cuellar.

Both band directors stressed for people to offer the band the same recognition that other school sports teams are offered.

For the students, this school year gives them an opportunity to get some of the experiences they lost out on last year due to school being held online.

Caballero noted those who were sophomores and freshmen before the pandemic have to step up into leadership roles now that they’re juniors and seniors, despite feeling like they’ve had a lost year that limited growth.

Still, he’s excited about the opportunity to lead the Weslaco East band as a student and sees it as seven years in the making.

“I have a few friends who have been with me since the beginning of middle school when we first picked up an instrument and seeing it all progress has been a great experience,” said Caballero.

No matter how well they perform or the awards they accomplish, both Weslaco band directors agree that seeing their students grow, improve, and take charge of the band is what they take the most pride in.

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