High school marching-band students strive and strain to reach the state finals

EL PASO — The Socorro Activities Complex in east El Paso is filled with the blasting excitement of drums, brass and cheers on a warm Saturday afternoon in October as excited spectators root for area high school marching bands competing for a chance to appear at the state level in San Antonio.

The Del Valle high school band has been rehearsing for this competition since August, practicing long hours every day, learning their marching steps and the music. It’s fun and it’s challenging.

Del Valle Marching Band director, Manuel Gamez has taken the band to the state competition three times – in 2003, 2005, and 2009. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Del Valle Marching Band director, Manuel Gamez has taken the band to the state competition three times – in 2003, 2005, and 2009. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Aaron Gomez a sophomore told Borderzine “I enjoy learning new music and music is my passion and after high school I want to study music and receive a degree from a four-year university.”

Alex Verdugo, a senior leader for the French horn section said, “I motivate students and assist the band directors in what needs to be done.” He became a section leader through a lot of practice and auditioning for the job, he said.

Juan Palacios a junior leader for the trumpets section said, “It’s a lot of hard work, but it is worth it in the end.”

Christina Boatman a sophomore told Borderzine she thinks Del Valle is the best band and “…the feeling that you gave it your all on the field is indescribable.”

Cindy Cruz a senior said the band also helps students with academics and she will miss being in the band after she graduates. “The band takes a lot of determination and strength. Everyone around you is there to help and support you,” she said.

Ashley Gonzalez a senior told Borderzine that being in the band does takes away her summer and requires a lot of practice. But she admitted, “You meet new people and have a good time and the band becomes a family.”

Manuel Gamez has been the director of the bands at Del Valle high school since 2002. In the 10 years he has been at Del Valle he has taken the marching band to the state competition three times – in 2003, 2005, and 2009.

Gamez told Borderzine that in order to build a successful band, “the kids have to buy into the program, surround yourself with a great staff, have support from the school administration, and support from the parents and community.” He said “within the first week of observing the band he can tell how good his band is going to be.”

When Gamez talks about support from the parents he is talking about the band parent association at Del Valle. They work hard and are dedicated to the band. They assist the students in moving the instruments on and off the field at football games and the competitions.

Gamez said his future goals for the band are to “have a state award winning band and to compete at the grand nationals in Indianapolis Indiana.”

The Del Valle band won a division one award at the competition and the chance to compete at the area marching band contest in Odessa Texas where they were selected to represent El Paso at the state competition in San Antonio, Texas on November 7th and 8th.

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story has been modified to correct the year when Mr. Gamez joined the band, 2002. The YISD Office records confirmed that Mr. Gamez started working at Del Valle on August 8, 2002

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