By this time in the school year, except for a few fortunate schools playing for the Texas State High School Football Championships, the marching band’s season is long over.
Fields and grandstands are empty, marching instruments are stored, uniforms are pressed and musicians are three pieces deep into music for the upcoming Christmas concerts. But for Clint ISD’s Horizon High Scorpion Marching Band a huge stage beckons: The 83rd Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl Game.
Amidst all the pomp and circumstance of the college bowl game season, selection Sunday and the announcement of the matchup between Stanford and the University of North Carolina, Horizon High’s band was selected to be the ‘stand in’ band for the Stanford Marching Band.
Stanford’s performances are well known, as is their reputation for being one of the more rowdy bands in the NCAA; so much so that the university suspended all band activities though the end of the 2017 Spring semester.
Against this unfortunate backdrop, officials with the Sun Bowl and Stanford looked to make the best of the situation, and began searching for a local band to represent their school in the December 30th game and during all the pregame activities. Organizers looked to the bands in the region, hoping to find one that fit with their school’s marching tradition of “irreverence and exuberance.”
According to Horizon High Principal Elena Acosta, the notification about the band’s selection came via a text from ‘out of nowhere.’
“We were mentioned to someone in the Sun Bowl Association – our kids reputation as being a top band in the area – and how well they had done this year,” Acosta said.
That success was a long time coming for the band, which at one point only had 44 members on the field. Band Director Raul Candelaria spent the last six years developing the band into one of the region’s premiere programs. Since taking the helm, Candelaria has seen the band grow in numbers, talent and achievement.
Nearly 180 members strong, the Horizon Band has been on a streak, receiving ‘Division 1’ ratings in each of the competitions held this year – culminating in a first-ever finals appearance at New Mexico State University’s Tournament of Bands, where they finished 9th out of the 30 regional bands in attendance; earning them a banner – yet another first for the band.
But it was the band’s precision and energy that got them noticed, then selected for the Sun Bowl honor. Oddly enough, it was a game that was almost cancelled and countless YouTube videos that sealed the deal.
Tommy Gray, Associate Athletic Director for External Relations at Stanford says reached out to the Sun Bowl for help. Local Sun Bowl officials were happy to oblige, compiling a list recommended bands and escorting school officials from school to school, searching for the best fit.
Earlier this year, one of those Sun Bowl officials made the trek to the High Desert to watch Hanks take on Horizon for the final game of the season. During pregame, that official watched as the drumline rehearsed nearly non-stop prior to the game; he admired their talent and work ethic, and looked forward to seeing them in action later that night.
Unfortunately, the performance never took place as a severe storm moved through the area, forcing the band – during senior night – into the safety of the band hall. But the warm up stuck with the representative, and Horizon’s name was passed along to the Stanford officials.
A few weeks and several Horizon High Band YouTube videos later, those same Stanford and Sun Bowl officials met with Principal Acosta and decided the band was the right fit for the job.
“Just watching those YouTube videos of the kids playing music in the stands, having fun, hyping the crowd and their performances during the halftime shows and competitions,” Gray shares, “pretty much sealed the deal.”
Gray adds that the band’s tasks will include playing Stanford’s alma mater, fight song and other stand tunes, as well as “just representing the Cardinal with the same energy and fun like the do with their team every week.”
Assistant Band Director Carl Ortega was the first to find out about the good news, as Candelaria was out of town on his honeymoon.
“I was in the middle of testing when Principal Acosta called me in and I’m like ‘Oh-oh,” Ortega shares, “And she says she’s been in contact with officials with the Sun Bowl and Stanford and she told me the good news…I was floored.”
Ortega rushed back to class, sharing the news with the students who reacted with screams of joy. Once he was back in town, Candelaria got the band back on track for marching and stand tunes, fitting it in with rehearsals for the upcoming Christmas shows.
“I didn’t believe it, at first,” Candelaria said, “but it’s now just a matter of juggling this performance, along with solo and ensemble and area competition and getting them used to marching once again…it’s all a challenge…but it’s fun.”
Drum Major and Clarinet Section Leader Hitlief Lara believes the band’s combination of discipline and fun solidified their selection as Stanford’s stand in.
Lara adds that the pride of having others recognize their hard work makes the experience that much better.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity, I’m a proud Drum Major to know my band has been selected for this…it’s just beyond fun.”
Alondra Martinez, Mellophone Section Leader for the band, sums it up for her fellow bandmates.
“I was really stunned – at first – that a university like Stanford would choose us to be part of the game,” Martinez says through a mile-wide smile, “but it’s really nice experience and I’m really glad that our band has this opportunity to demonstrate the results of our hard work all season.”
The 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl game will be played Friday, Dec. 30, at 12 p.m. MT at Sun Bowl Stadium. The 2016 game will mark the 83rd anniversary of the Sun Bowl game and the 49th consecutive broadcast on CBS. Tickets are available by calling the Sun Bowl Association office at 915-533-4416.