For the second time in its seven-year history, the Santa Gertrudis Academy High School Marching Band competed in the UIL 3A State Marching Band Championship in San Antonio this week.
The district’s marching band program began in 2012 under the guidance of its former director, Arthur Sholtis. In 2017, the marching band made it to the state championship, where they finished in 13th place in the preliminary round.
In 2018, Raymond Mendez took over as the SGA band director, along with his wife, Sandra Trevino-Mendez, as the assistant band director.
“We wanted to keep (the band) performing at that level while also moving the program forward,” Mendez said.
This year’s show is called “The Tie That Binds,” and tells the story of a young couple – performed by junior Marco Villarreal and sophomore Reagan Wright – separated and then brought back together by the red thread of fate.
“The show has multiple movements,” Mendez said. “There’s an intro, ‘Equus’ by Eric Whitacre in the first movement, ‘Nimrod’ from a larger work called ‘Enigma Variations’ for the second movement and then the last two movements are excerpts from the Tchaikovsky ballet ‘Swan Lake.’”
Mendez said selecting the shows is about “what fits the band the best and that they can perform at the highest level.”
“But it also has to be something that the kids, and the crowd, are going to enjoy,” he said. “Especially because we play this music for so long, for multiple months, it’s got to be something the kids will enjoy playing.”
For marching band programs in Texas, state competitions alternate years depending on the district’s enrollment classification. Santa Gertrudis ISD is a 3A district.
To get the band ready for the state contest, Mendez had the students participate in several pre-contests leading up to this year’s UIL competitions.
“It’s all about getting as many ‘reps’ as possible so we could get them to that state level,” he said.
In the UIL Region 14 Marching Band Contest, held on Oct. 19 in San Diego, the band finished with straight “1” ratings, the highest rating possible from the judges.
On Oct. 26, the band traveled to Beeville for the UIL Area E Marching Band Contest, taking eighth place in the preliminary round and advancing to the finals, where they finished in third place.
“You want to be in the top three going in to state,” Mendez said. “And the next goal for our students, at the minimum, is to try to beat everyone in our area at the state contest.”
Senior Joshua Seals was part of the marching band when it performed at the state contest in 2017. He said performing at the contest again was exciting for him.
“We only get two opportunities to do that during our high school career,” Seals said.
Seals said he and his fellow seniors worked to motivate their underclassmen throughout the season in preparation for the contest.
“Because two years ago, we were in the same spot as them,” he said.
Sophomore Roy Gonzalez joined the SGA band program during her freshman year. She said when she came in, she did not know to read music, let alone play an instrument.
“But Mr. and Mrs. Mendez were so welcoming and they helped me out so much,” she said.
Gonzalez said she was thrilled when she learned the marching band qualified for the state contest.
“I started crying,” she said. “It means so much because it’s truly a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to be going with my band family is a real blessing. This is something that I’ll able to tell my children about.”
Mendez said he appreciated the support the SGA Marching Band received from SGISD Superintendent Veronica Alfaro, Academy Principal Juan Sandoval and the SGS Music Parents Association booster club.
The 2019 UIL 3A State Marching Band Championship was held Wednesday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Results of the state contest were not available as of press time.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.