Soaring Pride Band marches in UIL State Contest Monday, Dec. 14

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Blake Loria

The Soaring Pride Band’s show, ‘Fugue State,’ is under the direction of Eric Rath. This is his first year as head director of the Soaring Pride Band. Prior to this, Rath worked as head director for Canyon Junior High. “I came in 2014,” Rath said. “So coming into this role has different responsibilities, but it’s not a complete change of pace. It was really important to try to keep those standards high, and keep the culture of excellence in place.”

The Soaring Pride Band will advance to the UIL State Marching Band Contest at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Monday, Dec. 14 after placing second in the Area contest with a score of 14.

The Area contest was held at Dick Bivins Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 14, with only the top three bands continuing to State. Because of limited capacity in the stadium, the competition can be viewed over livestream for $12. Head band director Eric Rath said the victory was not a surprise because the band has put in the work to be top tier.

I was really satisfied that our students had risen to their performance ability to be able to achieve that.”

— Eric Rath, Soaring Pride band director

“It was validating to have somebody who looks at it objectively say, ‘Yes, this is a group that should be advancing on to the state marching contest’,” Rath said.  “If we’re pursuing excellence in rehearsal, it should be automatic in performance. Since we were in a strong habit of being excellent every day, it’s no surprise they would be excellent on that day and then receive that result from the judges.”

Rather than having goals be result based, Rath said the band tries to set goals on things they can control in day-to-day rehearsals. 

“We can’t always control what five people who have never seen this before determine after an 8 minute performance,” Rath said. “Our goal is to always perform in such a way that they feel like they have to put us in that upper echelon. So when we found out we were in that, I was really satisfied that our students had risen to their performance ability to be able to achieve that.”

With COVID-19 changing the football season, Rath said that the schedule has been altered, as well as major rehearsals and ultimately the state marching contest.

We all want to reach the same goal, and we’re willing to help and do whatever we can in order to see each other succeed and ourselves succeed.”

— Natalie Lopez, 12

“I am trying to focus on what each day needs,” Rath said. “We’ve tried to shift our goal setting tactics to things that we can control, instead of putting the control over what we consider validation into the hands of others. In 10 or 20 years, you probably won’t remember exactly what placement you got, but you’ll remember what it felt like to do the entire experience. Sure, there are days it’s easier than others, and there are days that probably being on the couch sounds more fun than not. But I think for me, it’s more experiential.”

Senior and assistant drum major Natalie Lopez said she knew all along that the band was going to reach their goal and make it to state.

“This is a goal I always knew we could reach, even though all this craziness is happening around us,” Lopez said. “I really showed myself how much I can accomplish and that I can’t do it by myself. We all want to reach the same goal, and we’re willing to help and do whatever we can in order to see each other succeed and ourselves succeed. It helps me realize I’m able to leave a legacy behind when I’m gone.”

Lopez said the COVID-19 regulations the band has had to adapt to haven’t bothered her because she still gets to come to school, be in band and get to see her friends.

“If that’s what it takes to have band this year, and that’s the situation we’re dealt with, then I’m willing to do anything just to have that activity for my last year,” Lopez said. “Especially all the other band seniors as well, because they want to go out on a good note. Even though this has been a pretty terrible year, we all want something positive to come out of this.”

Unlike Rath and Lopez, freshman Liam Stayton said he was originally unsure about the outcome of the Area Competition and did not know if the band would get to advance to State.

It’s really cool to be part of a group activity and advance so far in something.”

— Liam Stayton, 9

“I was actually really surprised,” Stayton said. “We left the field and were watching all the other bands, and I didn’t know if we were going to qualify or not considering they had visuals, and they had a really put together show. You could tell they put in a lot of effort. When they called second place, I was really surprised and started screaming. It was a really fun experience”

Stayton said that, while marching and performing is enjoyable and being in the Alamodome is a once in a lifetime thing, the experiences and social aspect of band are more important.

“It’s really cool to be part of a group activity and advance so far in something,” Stayton said. “I’ve gained a lot of friends, and a lot of social ties are really close because of band. Getting to be a part of band and then advancing to the state level is really nice for me because I’ve put a lot of work into it, and everyone else put a lot of work into it. It shows a collective effort. I know that making state isn’t a normal thing. So getting to do that, especially in a COVID year, has made me feel really proud.”

Rath said he wanted to honor the students this year by continuing the excellence they’ve established in the program from previous years.

“I cannot be more proud of these students,” Rath said. “The way they’ve had to deal with this season, they have risen to the challenge. I have just been absolutely impressed at what they’ve been willing to achieve and honestly put up with.”