Mac band ‘caps’ Capital City

Drum majors reflect upon key victory that made band members realize they could go all the way


Madelynn Niles

BAND BACKSTAGE: Members of the MAC clarinet section smile and pose pre-show, enjoying their last few moments before the all-day competitioin at Toney Burger Stadium kicks off. A day full of of music, marching, and. although they didn’t know it yet, victory, lay ahead of them.

Madelynn Niles, staff reporter

7 a.m.

It is a cold and rainy Saturday morning, gray enough to require a light rain jacket, but not gray enough to dampen the spirits of McCallum drum majors Dexter Canning and Jonah Brown.

“I remember waking up, and I wasn’t even tired,” Brown said. “I knew I had a long day ahead, and I was going to save my tiredness for later.”

It is the moment the band had been training for on those hot and hazy summer band camp days out on the blacktop, way back in late July, through all of August, and every day since then —the day of the marching band’s first and biggest competition, Capital City Marching Festival.

“I just woke up and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go!’” Brown said.

The weather, however, had other plans.

9 a.m.

Just half an hour into their preparatory rehearsal, a cool rain begins to fall across the pavement of the parking lot, drenching instruments, band members and a chance at one last run before the competition.

“Guess I didn’t have to take a shower this morning,” Canning recalled thinking.

This obstacle, however, did not phase head marching director Zackary Travis in his determination. “We hit the spots that we needed to hit, so I was OK with it,” he stated afterwards. “It had been really hot up until that point, so it was actually nice to watch it cool down for a little bit.”

Towels were swiftly thrown atop everything in sight, and the buses were loaded.

It really was go time.

2 p.m.

According to Travis, the preliminary round of the competition was an “OK” run. Rough due to the suddenly hot weather, which emerged courtesy of Texas Octobers, which would soon turn again to storms, delaying the retreat portion of the competition by an hour. While judges record their final comments on their ballots and the trophies get a final polish, all the band members can do is wait for the announcement of who will move on to the finals.

Canning and Brown catch up on their sleep in the doorway of the facility. “Just a nice little nap before finals,” as Canning described it. The boys laughed as they reminisced upon the moment. “Quality bonding time,” they agreed, is a good way to characterize this part of the day.

6 p.m.

Band members burst up from the stands cheering as loud as they can as they hear the words they longed to hear—first place in the 4A division, best percussion, best music, best visual and highest overall score. As a result of their seeding, they will be last to perform in the final round later that night.

“I knew we were gonna make finals, I felt it in my gut,” Brown stated. “But first? That was really a big surprise.”

Canning agreed that this result represented a turning point in the band’s mentality. “I found out we got first after prelims, and I was like… ‘We did it? Oh hell yes.’”

With just several hours left before the final round, the pressure among the remaining 10 bands percolated. “Whatever we did before isn’t good enough anymore,” Travis said. “The previous rep, the previous day, the previous week, whatever it may be. That’s just how I live my life.”

Madelynn Niles
SWEET, SWEET SWEEPSTAKES: Drum majors Dexter Canning and Jonah Brown share a celebratory moment after receiving news that McCallum had received straight first divisions, or sweepstakes, at the marching UIL competition shortly after Cap City, which qualified them for the area-wide competition.

9:30 p.m.

Canning and Brown look over the crowd, the field, and finally to each other. They exchange a quick glance, determination in their eyes. “At that moment, it felt like everybody wanted to push to make first in finals,” Canning said. Brown agreed. “It was like, ‘We’re here, it’s late — we might as well make first.’” Canning nodded. “We might as well show the other schools what we’re made of.”

I knew we were gonna make finals, I felt it in my gut, but first? That was really a big surprise.

— Drum major Jonah Brown

And just like that, the crowd was on its feet; the roar of applause and shouts drowning out any doubt the band had prior to the performance. “I remember I thought, ‘That was such a good run,’ but then my thoughts immediately went to ‘Oh my gosh my arms are on fire,’” Brown said with a light laugh. “I just had to get off the podium and shake it all out. I was super tense the entire run because, ya know, it’s your final performance, and you’re the last one going at like 10 o’clock at night, pitch black and everyone’s staring right at you — all the other bands, all the parents.”

Both drum majors agreed that this was the strongest performance the band had experienced yet this season. “We had a great run that night,” Travis said afterward, also smiling. “I was excited, because it felt like the first time the band legitimately performed. You could feel that emotion and that energy in the show for the first time the whole season.”

Out of breath, the band members walk off the field and, still in their full uniforms, head to the stands for the announcements of results. Rushed and anxious whispers fill every corner of the stadium.

10 p.m.

If we just clean up very small things, we can go far. It’s up to us now to fix that everything … it’s our choice.

— Drum major Dexter Canning

The announcement ceremony is coming to a close, and a hush falls over the crowd.

“Second place goes to…” booms the voice over the speakers.

Hearts pounding, the two drum majors look at each other. A moment passes where everyone holds their breath. A moment frozen in stone. “… Dripping Springs High School!”

“Right when they said that,” Brown said, thinking back to that moment. “It was so crazy. I was like, ‘Oh, we didn’t make it? But then I was like… wait. It’s finals, and it’s dark outside. And we made first.” Before the victor could even be announced, the stands erupted with screams, stomps and laughter. “I remember being like, ‘Oh crap, we did this,’” Canning added. “‘We really did this.’”

Looking forward, the MAC band will compete in the UIL area competition, with hopes of placing in the top three bands—the requirement for moving on to the state competition.

“If we just clean up very small things,” Canning stated, “we can go far. It’s up to us now to fix that everything… it’s our choice.”

“I’m gonna say something, but I don’t want it to come off as cocky…” Brown added with a smile.

“ I’m really looking forward to state.” The two looked at each other once again with that fierce determination, this time with a glimmer of hope in their eyes.