The Van Alstyne High School Band got off to a good start back in August with the first new uniforms members have donned in years. It was not an insignificant commitment on the part of the district or the program, and, apparently, it was a sign of great things to come.
On Oct. 26, the Van Alstyne Panther Marching Band qualified for its first UIL State Marching Band Contest in school history. At the rain-shortened Class 2A Area competition in Denton, the band ranked in the top four of the programs in attendance, earning it a state-qualifying berth and exuberant screams of joy from the parents in attendance.
Band Director Tim Fulton, a bit more reserved days later in his office, recognized the scope of his charges accomplishments.
“It’s a new frontier, a new area for the band,” said Fulton. “These kids have never been in this situation before. It’s channeling emotions, channeling the desire at the tail end of [a long season]; they’ve been doing this for two-and-a-half months. Like I told them, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you’re getting there.”
It has indeed been a long season. Band members were hard at it before school started for much of the rest of the student body. Since then, they have played every Friday night football game, performed in two festivals in Aubrey and Princeton and competed at Regionals (earning superior ratings) before even getting to the Area round.
“These kids have put in 1,000 hours of rehearsal,” said Fulton without the slightest hint of exaggeration.
There are challenges besides the obvious roadblock of competing against the other 19 best 2A bands in the state. Fulton’s band members have never played inside a dome, and as he explained, that type of facility can affect the music.
“It’s a new experience [going to state.] You go to a stadium you’ve never been to before, it’s a new experience. And this is a covered dome. A dome makes it louder; the echoing is tough. In a regular stadium that’s open sound keeps going; in this one it comes back at you,” said Fulton.
Drummers are the most affected inside a dome, but Fulton said they will make fine adjustments to adapt.
Aside from the technical preparation, the mental aspect of hitting the figurative and literal biggest stage has to be taken into account. Fulton said the band members have done a good job of keeping their emotions in check.
“Once they start realizing [we’re going] they keep getting excited,” said Fulton. “I think we’ll do pretty good if we all show up and have the energy.”
There will be some familiar faces awaiting the Panther Band in San Antonio as Grayson County programs Howe, Whitesboro and Sherman (4A) also qualified. Ironically, Van Alstyne and Howe will meet early as the two towns play each other in football Friday night with both bands performing at halftime.
One thing that has been a constant for this band – besides recent success – has been a strong support base. Do you think there was any way the Panther Band was going to make a quiet exit from town then? Not a chance. A send-off breakfast has been set for Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at the First Baptist Church, and there will most assuredly be a very vocal crowd to wish them luck before they leave town.
“Everyone has been very supportive, and I just want say thank you to parents and the administration for their support,” said Fulton.
What: UIL Class 2A State Marching Band Contest
When: November 4
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
Times: Preliminaries – 4:53 p.m.
Finals – 7 p.m.