Westlake band makes history

“Coppell High School…James Bowie High School…Marcus High School…Hebron High School …”

As the public address announcer read off the marching bands (in performance order) who had qualified for the UIL State Marching Finals on Nov. 6 in San Antonio, masses of students scattered throughout the Alamodome cheered as their schools were named.

“The Woodlands High School…Reagan High School…Claudia Taylor Johnson High School…L.D. Bell High School…”

With only two bands left to be announced in the State Finals, anxiety had overwhelmed all of the Westlake band members.

“Everyone was clutching their neighbors with baited breath,” junior Lucia Brunel said. “We were all counting down the spots left in finals on our fingers.”

“Westlake High School…”

A resounding cheer rose up from the band, followed by hugs and high-fives.

“I felt relieved,” junior Lincoln Valdez said. “It was suspenseful and definitely frightening when we weren’t announced until ninth.”

The band qualified for the its third consecutive appearance in the 5A State finals, a feat never before accomplished at Westlake, which qualified for its first ever State finals appearance in 2008. (The 5A competition is held every other year.)

Although making it into finals was a crowning achievement in itself, head band director Kerry Taylor wasn’t totally satisfied with State preliminary performance and was poised to capitalize on a second opportunity.

“I thought our prelims performance was a little tentative,” Taylor said. “I knew we could do better and I didn’t want to end our season on a lower performance than I knew we were capable of.”

The band brought more energy to the finals performance later that evening, securing a seventh place finish, the highest mark any Westlake band has ever achieved.

“We put everything we had out on that field,” Lucia said. “It was a great show to end the year with.”

According to Taylor, the achievement can be attributed to student leadership on the field.

“We had a group of marching leaders that were very methodical and enthusiastic,” Taylor said. “They were meticulous in their instruction and their detail work.”

Fittingly, the State marching contest capped off the most successful year in Westlake band history. Over the course of the fall semester, the band placed ninth out of 61 bands at the Bands of America San Antonio Super Regional competition, second at the Vista Ridge Marching Festival and tied for third at the Area competition, all high marks for the band program.

“It feels gratifying,” Lincoln said. “All the hard work only pays off in those achievements and it felt fantastic to see the culmination of our band’s collaboration come together at the right times.”

The band’s competitive show was titled “Promenade,” and featured excerpts from “Festive Overture” by Shostakovich, “Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini” by Rachmaninoff and “Four Scottish Dances” by Malcolm Arnold. It was meant to portray an elegant ball, complete with towering chandeliers, a massive staircase, and choreographed elements of ballroom dancing within the band.

“I think our students bought in to the concept we were trying to get across to the audience,” Taylor said. “When we went to performances and we were getting responses from the audience, as performers, it simply made them want to do that much better.”

Although the band won’t be returning to the State competition until 2014, Taylor and the returning band members plan to use this year of unprecedented success as a springboard into next year, when they’ll return to BOA San Antonio eager to continue improving on the best BOA finish in program history.

“As successful as we were this year, we realized there are things we can do better,” Taylor said. “There’s a little trepidation about getting a show that’s as entertaining [as ‘Promenade’] that still values what we value at Westlake: some classical music performed in a fresh way. If we can get a show that can do that, we’re really looking forward to next year and trying to better what we did this year.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All THE FEATHERDUSTER Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.