SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — Four high school marching bands from the Concho Valley packed up their uniforms, instruments, flags and props for their chance at the title during the 2023 UIL State Marching contest in San Antonio.

Menard ISD reclaimed the title as state champions under director and Angelo State University alum Rebekah Cook in the 1A division with Irion County ISD, directed by ASU alum Brian Tillman, following in a close second – by only one point.

Irion County ISD Marching Band standing together for a photo outside of the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.
Irion County ISD Marching Band standing together for a photo outside of the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.

TLCA San Angelo also made a trip to the Alamo Dome to compete in the UIL Marching contest in the 3A division, placing 23rd under the direction of first-year head band director Kevin Duke. This was the first time in TLCA’s history to compete at the UIL State Marching contest. Wall High School joined TLCA in the 3A division, taking 20th.

These bands started practicing for the 2023 marching season with a summer band camp a few weeks before school. At camp, student musicians memorize the three movements they will be playing this year. When August came around, the bands hit the ground marching, adding the music they had practiced to the marching drill they were now learning. Mr. Tillman shares he creates the choreography and places dots on the ground to help map out the path of the performance for the students.

“It is very much a slow process,” he explained.

By the first two football games, these bands are ready to perform their first one or two movements for an audience Mr. Tillman explained. As football season progresses, directors will have the band add more of their performance to their halftime shows, working on putting all the pieces of the show together.

High school marching bands will start competing in area competitions and festivals around September and October with the three movements they’ve learned. By traveling to other competitions, bands are able to add finishing touches to their performance and receive feedback from judges.

Mr. Duke at TLCA shared that this year the band competed in Bands of America against some of the top bands. Despite the band not having their props on the field for visualization, they were able to musically outperform 5A and 6A bands as a charter school.

Come mid-October, high school marching bands will compete in their region-level contest, hoping for a first-division rating to advance to the next round – State. Bands that qualify travel to San Antonio around the end of October, beginning of November to compete.

TLCA San Angelo made history competing in the preliminaries at the UIL State Marching contest, placing 23rd with their Bonnie and Clyde-themed performance. Mr. Duke explains their three movements took the audience through the historical story of the two wanted lovers who originated from the area and featured antique car cut-outs, wanted poster flags for the color guard and vintage hand-crank sirens.

TLCA San Angelo Marching Band 2023
The 2023 TLCA San Angelo Marching Band.

Once the students left the field, they were overrun with happy tears, jumps of joy and pride for their journey this year.

Mr. Duke and TLCA San Angelo High School principal Dr. Sarah Hernandez explained how proud they are of their band to be able to compete on the level they are as a charter school.

“We are just thrilled about it,” Dr. Hernandez explained, “We don’t have the same level of resources being a charter school.” Since charter schools do not receive local funds, TLCA does not have the ability to have some things that other school districts can provide for their bands. Despite the challenges, TLCA San Angelo’s Marching Band was able to perform at the same level as bands that have access to the resources.

“[Mr. Duke] has worked really hard at getting creative and really pushing the kids,” she said while explaining the level of focus and dedication the band and their director have.

Mr. Duke shared the band is ready to enter their next season of performances, bringing in even harder music to raise the bar and continue making history for the band program.

Wall also competed in the Alamo Dome taking home 20th place in the 3A division.

Irion County ISD Marching Band takes the field in the Alamo Dome for the 2023 UIL Marching contest.
Irion County ISD Marching Band takes the field in the Alamo Dome for the 2023 UIL Marching contest.

Menard and Irion County advanced to finals in San Antonio, with only one point separating the two from first and second place. Although Menard held onto the title, Irion County was able to climb the ranks after finishing in third place during the 2021 UIL State Marching contest.

With the momentum gained from this year and a change of rules allowing bands to compete every year instead of every other year, these bands are ready for next year’s marching season.

The TLCA San Angelo High School Band is taking donations. Checks can be made out to TLCA Band, Kevin Dukes and sent to TLCA High School.