La Feria News

LFHS Band: A Strong Tradition That Should Keep Its Own Standards

by Gail Brandt

As I get older I have found that I feel bound by older traditions and standards. Things that did not seem to matter much as a child or a teenager.

And, it doesn’t seem to take but a second for those memories, that are connected to those same traditions and standards, to get triggered. It just takes that fleeting commercial on TV that tugs at your heart, or hearing a song that you used to sing full blast in the car while driving to and from high school.

The band program in the La Feria school system set high standards from the very beginning. I heard my father talk about his director quite often.

I also remember his ire when he didn’t take 1st at state competition because the piano was out of tune. He had practiced so much on that silver clarinet that his bottom teeth slanted backwards into his mouth. But hey, if he practiced he didn’t have to milk the cows.

So, it was a win-win for him either way.

When it was time for his four daughters to participate in the school’s band program, there was no doubt that we would. It was merely which instrument would Mr. Don Fleuriet chose for us to play. And, as parents, my husband and I were not surprised that our daughters chose to do the same thing.

I’m not really sure when marching became part of the band program in La Feria because I have no family photos as a reference. But I do know that no band director in the RGV wanted to march behind Don Fleuriet’s LFHS band at Pigskin Jubilee because it meant that a “Division 1 Rating” just wasn’t going to be in the picture at the Parade of Colors that night.

The band hall for us was at today’s CE Vail campus. It had no air conditioning when I began band in 5th grade. There were gnats crawling all over us during the summer months, and each of us learned to suck it up and not complain.

Once you reached junior high and high school, we all dreaded the 1st six weeks test… all the songs played by memory used during marching season, as well as the school song and all the scales. The longer a kid stayed in band the easier that test became, but it was still a high standard; one you did not want to fail!

When air conditioning was installed, it was a God send. No more gnats! But there was still the wet practice field. And the crickets that we had to fight with that we all found in our “special marching shoes”… that were worn only 1st period and never to 2nd.

That Sweepstakes trophy for the Weslaco Pigskin marching competition and the concert sight reading contest was always a given.

That is until my junior year. We had students who did care as much, for lack of a better explanation. Fleuriet was depressed with the 2nd place that we earned at concert contest, and so were we. We all hung our heads and had slumped shoulders. What had we done!
For everyone but the seniors, the next year had an eerie feel to it. The tradition had been broken. The standards had not been met. Bummer!

Back in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, standards were standards, whether it be for concert contest or for Pigskin. As for marching, standards were black and white and based on military precision.

No flash in the pan theatrics. No extra props. No flag girls, just twirlers and a drum major. Sharp, crisp turns were a given, as were precise straight lines. It was like watching the Aggie band march at halftime!

As marching has evolved over the years, in my opinion, the drama department or theater arts program of Texas public education has bled over into halftime shows.

Marching practice now begins in July, according to UIL specifications, and not in August. School begins in August, instead of after Labor Day. Bands do not have a different show each Friday, because they have Pigskin fever. Things change; I get that.
The whole point about the high school experience is that it is the continuation of a learning process begun in kindergarten or pre-school. Students grow from year to year in knowledge and experience.

Band members are no different. They learn from performance to performance.They begin by walking-through sets. Then they add instruments. After the 1st number is grasped, the process begins yet again. There is growth and confidence comes as the show beings to gel.

Instrumentation, solos, and performance by instrument groups… like the percussion, the woodwinds or the brass… gets better. The sound improves.

There are less and less mistakes. Muscle memory kicks in and that solo becomes flawless. Or, that difficult section where everyone is in motion and playing the hardest parts of the music, finally looks like it did on paper.

I watch the halftime show at a home game for the Lions a little differently than most. I see the flutes and remember what it was like for me on that field.

I began my freshman year on the sidelines because I couldn’t coordinate marching and playing at the same time. But before the year was up, I did make it onto Graham Field. It was a tremendous feat of accomplishment for me because all of my practice paid off.
Then there was the year that I earned Mr. Fleuriet’s trust. I was the critical turn to start that famous triangle, where we all went back and forth and the band began to weave in and out, a most beautiful pattern to observe from the stands. If I made a mistake, it was a total disaster. I nailed it at Pigskin. Yes!

As I watched this year’s Pigskin performance in Mercedes, I saw the growth, the improvement. I heard the flawless solos. I heard the mistake and smiled at the almost instantaneous correction. I was awed. The band advanced to Area! Yes!

When I was in high school there was no Area marching competition. There was no State. La Feria had always knocked it out of the park for concert season and performed frequently at the TMEA state concert series. Fleuriet never got to take a marching band to State.

The current LFHS band has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of for its two performances at Area competition. There was growth from Pigskin to the 1st Area performance to the 2nd performance for finals competition.

It’s just unfortunate that the five judges were less interested in “marching” and more interested in the drama and story told by song and dance. Your performance was better than those people who said you weren’t good enough. At least, that’s the way I see it. Just thought you should know.

Did you like this? Share it: