Band, color guard qualify for UIL state

By placing fifth, band earns chance to play at Alamodome Nov. 8.

Steven Tibbetts

The McCallum marching band and color guard had a busy day last Saturday. And they made history.

The band placed fifth in both the prelims and the finals to make it to state for the first time since 2005. Photo by Bella Russo.

In the afternoon the marching band and color guard performed their program, artPop, in the preliminary round of the Area D competition at Gupton Stadium in Cedar Park.

The band placed fifth out of the 33 schools that qualified for area, which was high enough to move them into the area finals. That night, in the finals, McCallum and nine other schools performed their programs in hopes of qualifying for the UIL state marching band competition. Despite the nerves of the moment, the band was able to play one of its best performances of the year.

“The performance [Saturday] night really stood out for me,” senior flutist Aly Candelas said. “When we finished it just felt unreal. I actually got the chills right at the end, it was so good.”

Even though the marching band and color guard felt that they had delivered a great performance, they were still nervous for the announcement of what place they would get. A top six finish would move them on to state for the first time since 2005.

Seventh place or lower would mean missing out. The tension was high in the stands where the band members sat and on the field where the drum majors stood. When it was announced that McCallum had held their fifth place spot from prelims, the members in the stands cheered, the drum majors did their salute, and the McCallum marching band was headed for the state competition for the first time in 12 years.

“The best part [of the area competition] was when they called McCallum’s name for advancing to state and [seeing] everyone’s reactions,” senior mellophonist Sara Laymon said. “We were all so happy and excited to have finally made state after 12 years. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”

The road to making it to the state competition started immediately after last year’s district competition. Because 5A only has an area and state competition every other year, last year’s squad didn’t have a chance to advance past the district level.

“We knew that this year would be special and that we had a chance at making state after [the UIL district] contest last year. Immediately in November we started having production meetings, and we knew it was going to be a very special year,” band director Carol Nelson said.

Starting in the summer, the marching band worked hard practicing its show in the August heat with a chance to qualify for state in mind.

“I think our achievements have really sprung from our schedule,” drum major Lily McCormick said. “We’ve amped our rehearsal schedule since the last time we competed for state, and I think that has really helped to get everyone in the right mindset.”

Band director Carol Nelson said she started getting optimistic about this season when the team competed well at UIL district last year. Photo by Bella Russo.

Multiple marching band members interviewed for this story said that they believed from the beginning that this year’s band had the potential to make state. The only question was whether the band could come together and meet that potential.

“I definitely knew this band was special from the beginning,” McCormick said. “Individually this group of musicians may have been questionable, but as a group we thrive. That was the first time I’d ever seen everyone truly work together with no emotional barriers.”

And so when the marching band played well enough to qualify for the state competition it meant a lot for the entire team to know that their hard work had paid off.

“It means a lot because we put in thousands of hours working on our drill, especially [those in the drumline], and all that effort would just be wasted if we [hadn’t made] state,” senior trumpet player Mollie Adolph said.

The state qualification was especially meaningful for the seniors who wanted to finish of their marching band careers on a high note.

“It means everything to me,” Laymon said. “I’ve spent all four years in marching band and making state was the best way to complete my senior marching season.”

Nelson agreed.  “You just get very proud of the kids’ accomplishments and representing McCallum and the district,” she said. “It’s quite an honor.”

The band is not resting on its laurels. Rather, the band has spent this week rededicating itself to the practice routine that earned them a spot at state.

“The really cool thing about this is that we continue to clean and get better,” Nelson said. “It’s exciting for me to see us get better and better and not plateau.”

The state competition will be held on Nov. 8 in the Alamodome in San Antonio. Although making state was the main goal for the marching season, the band’s new goal is to keep its success going. There are 35 5A marching bands competing at state. Only 10 will advance to finals.

“Next we are hoping to make finals at state,” Candelas said. “We believe that we have a good shot, and if we did, it would mean so much to everyone.”

Reporting by Lily McCormick, Celeste Montes de Oca, Bella Russo and Alejandro Serna.

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Photos by Bella Russo.