ROMA — As the sun rose, Roma High School marching band members began their drills, practicing fundamentals and working to put every element in synchronization.
This all started at 7 a.m. sharp Friday.
School in the 5A class will compete this year for the State Marching Band Contest, which is held every other year for schools of this size. Roma is among several 5A schools in the Valley preparing for the state competition year. The band’s drills began a little over a week ago, taking strides toward a potential milestone in advancing for 10 consecutive state competitions since 2001.
Roma band members practiced their formations, moving from set to set in the parking lot by Gladiator Arena, the district’s high school stadium.
They were militant.
These young marching band members must also play their instruments while coordinating their movements as a metronome beeps constantly.
It was the quintessential summer band scene.
Band Director Dena Laurel has worked for 22 years at the Roma school district in some capacity and is entering her 23rd year with the district. With such a large group, student leaders that teach others are needed, she said. Texas has one of the most competitive programs for marching band, she added.
“They’re just as motivated as all of those other years, to return again and they want to do better,” she said.
Flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tubas, drums are among the instruments students play, which is a standard composition of players for schools, Laurel said.
The performance will be split into four parts. Marching bands follow a similar format, she said. These marching shows run between five and eight minutes for the competition.
This year, Roma’s show will incorporate music from television and adapting concert pieces for a marching band, she said. There are a lot of possibilities for what directors can choose, factoring entertainment and the composition of the band, she said.
The introduction is a traditional song from the American songbook which transitions to the opener “Instinctive Travels,” by Michael Markowski, rearranged to fit their band.
“There’s No Place Like Home,” the ballad, a theme from “LOST,” encompasses the more contemplative part of the performance. The closer, usually more upbeat in tempo, such as a march, will be “Moving Parts” by David Sampson, a piece written for concert band but rearranged for the band.
The students practiced their drills with colored chips to mark their sets. In addition, they honed their instrumental skills while finally combining these two elements practicing for nearly three hours Friday.
They practice outside from 7 a.m. to about 9:45 a.m. from Monday through Friday.
Despite enduring the heat and the competitive nature of the contest, students laughed and mingled with each other during water breaks, as directors encouraged the students.
Near the end of the practice, the director gave them an extra break for their hard work all week.
High school students sprayed each other with water guns, pouring water on each other for a few minutes before rehearsing again.
“Fria!” a student shouted as he got soaked in water, noting the chilled temperature after two hours outside on a summer day in South Texas.
Assistant band director John Mireles said that they rarely do this but wanted the students to enjoy themselves for all their hard work.
“Having a little bit of fun then going right back to work, can’t beat that,” he said.
“It’s a state year, so there’s a lot of goals set for them, we’re digging in and trying our best,” he said after practice.
The district marching band members can practice without a limit from the University Interscholastic League from Aug. 1 until the first day of school. Prior to Aug. 1, summer practices for “marching fundamentals” were limited to 10 hours, according to the rules. Although the band did not fully use this 10-hour limit for marching practice, wanting to respect the time of the students to be with their families, Laurel said.
Roma ISD’s first day of school is Aug 26.
It’s a competitive area in the Valley, but especially this year at the state level with all of the “top dogs” who always make it, according to Edgar Moreno, a 17-year-old high school senior who leads other students as a drum major.
“It’s way different than marching; you’re conducting the whole band, you’re leading the whole band… there’s a lot of responsibilities that come with that but at the same time it’s fun,” Moreno said.
Other drum majors, who are also upperclassmen, had similar sentiments.
Juniors Angie Martinez and Aracely Garcia, both juniors, also echoed similar sentiments, thanking their band directors, the feeling of being a leader and enjoying each other’s company.
Roma has a strong sense of community as a small town, and that’s instilled in them, the band director said.
“We really feel like if we just strive every day to be better, if we just worry about the things can control, which is how hard we work, all the accolades, and all the advancing to contests and championships, it will take care of itself,” Laurel said, noting the group of band directors who work to make this work.