Musicality was not the only thing that area high school marching bands were working on this year. Learning the art of marching to new tunes and how to adapt to the changing world of high school band competitions was high on the list of things to do for marching programs.
The hard work and perseverance this season payed off for Howe High school, resulting in band attending the state 3A marching competition in Austin last week.
Howe High School made finals at the state competition on Tuesday, Nov. 7 and finished in ninth place. The Howe band previously won the state competition in 1980, 1995 and 1997.
“We have gotten second place at least four times that I know of,” Howe High School Band Director Angie Liss said. “We have been to the state competition at least 20 times. I was in band in 1980 when we won state the first time and I was an assistant director in 1995 and 1997. That really means a lot to me.”
People outside of Howe know about the city, Liss said, because of how successful the band has been throughout the years.
“I was on vacation in Mexico recently,” she said. “I ran into some people that were also from Texas. They were like, ‘Where are you from?’ I said Howe and they were like, ‘Oh, ya’ll have a really great band.’ We have a lot of support from the community and the school. That is one of the reasons that I think people know us so well. Our great backing pushes us to be great.”
Howe’s show this year was titled, “Stained Glass” and used music from Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Frank Ticheli.
“We tried to incorporate stained glass everywhere that we could in the show,” Liss said. “Our background on the field looked like stained glass. The silks that the color guard used looked like stained glass. Then, there was tarp that the marchers actually walked on that looked like stained glass. We used these beautiful cut outs of pink, yellow, green, blue looking stained glass.”
At the beginning of the season, Liss and other band staff talked to the students about stained glass, how it is made and its purpose.
“Each piece is individual and bares its own weight and does its own part,” she said. “But it also completes a piece. It is just like the members of the band. They are all their own, but they work together to make something bigger and greater than they are as individuals.”
That concept was put to the test when the band competed in two contests in one weekend.
“That was four performances in about 48 hours including the football game on Friday night,” Liss said. “We did not have as much success as we would have liked, but it was great because it taught us so much. Perseverance, how to keep pushing through, trust in authority, encouraging them to follow through and trust the process were all things that we learned this year.”
Liss said the tough season was worth it when the band heard its name called during the area competition to go to state.
“Learning to push through the frustration and the weather was very important this season,” she said. “The heat and the cold can do a lot of things to our instruments. The weather is constantly changing. In the cold, the wind instruments can be flat and the pit will be sharp. In the heat, its the opposite. Tuesday at state, it was hot when we were warming up, but in the Alamodome it was cool. We had to prepare for what we were going to be dealing with and not how it was outside. Being a good player is all about being consistent with your embouchure and being able to adapt to what is going on around you.”
Embouchure is the lip positioning, use of facial muscles, tongue and teeth necessary to play an instrument and provide the best sound quality. Learning how to keep your face in position no matter what is going on around you, Liss said, will show students how to keep calm when life is moving quickly around them.
“No matter the field, you can take what you learn with you wherever you go in life,” she said. “Music surrounds us. Its something you will have for the rest of your life. Skills and knowledge allow you to appreciate music however you would like.”
This was a standout season for Liss and she hopes it has been as memorable for her students as it was for her.
“I had a past student who told me that she watched the live stream of the area contest performance,” Liss said. “She said that watching the performance took her back to when she was in school playing in the band. She said that it felt like she was right there in that moment with us. She said that its so important for students to cherish these moments because the memories will stick with you forever.”