With a 2020-21 extracurricular schedule becoming a daily question for schools across the country, making it through a season is extra rewarding.
The Goliad High School Roaring Tiger Band made it through its 2020 season and then some, advancing to the UIL area marching contest last month while setting the stage for several student successes.
On top of competing in the Dec. 12 area event, 12 members of the Tigers auditioned and earned a place in the Region 14 band. This is the highest number of students to make the band in recent history. Two students, Tristan Bennett and James Trevino, have now advanced to the area level as individuals, and will have the opportunity to make the UIL state band. Bennett and Trevino also reached the state level during the 2019-20 band season.
The band’s path through the 2020 marching season was shepherded by band director James Snider, who is in his second year with Goliad, but his 35th as a director. Snider has been “all over” as a band director in Texas, last retiring after a nine-year stint at San Antonio’s East Central High. After a few years of retirement in Lubbock, Snider returned closer to his San Antonio roots with the Roaring Tigers.
“Even after I retired, I missed it … I love band so much, love kids, the whole thing,” he said.
His inspiration behind getting into directing came from his junior high and high school band directors, as well as his coaching mindset from being a football fan.
“I’m very competitive,” he said. “I grew up in a competitive situation. I want the kids to succeed, I’m all about student success.”
In order to be in his position, Snider resides in an RV/camper trailer in Goliad on the weekdays, going back to his San Antonio home on weekends.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “I can run home sometimes if I have to in emergencies … it’s unique. My wife and I have been married for 37 years, so she understands. She was in band herself, so she kind of understands the whole band thing.”
Snider’s mission for 2020 was more than just navigating his band to the success it would achieve. It was a day-by-day survival brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a mission Snider and his band took head-on.
The pandemic would postpone the band’s summer practice sessions by a week, with the band beginning to perfect a routine in earnest in August 2020. During the postponement week, Snider and his band sat down to learn more about the disease spreading across the nation.
“Back then, we didn’t know what we were up against, we didn’t know that we were so scared, everyone was so scared,” Snider said. “It affects everyone differently … what’s scary is we don’t even know if we had it, we don’t know it. There were times where we felt physically drained and we didn’t know, it’s the great unknown.”
Despite the trepidation, the band pushed forward into the 2020 football season, providing Goliad audiences with a “rock show” featuring the music of AC/DC and Kiss, among other rock music titans.
“I wanted to make it fun,” he said of the routine. “We usually do a very serious show, and this year we had a rock show … I wanted to make it something that our audience at football games would enjoy. It seems like our community and our students got behind the whole rock show thing, and really, it was great during our football games and our halftime.”
The successful routine was brought upon by Snider’s leadership and the talented Tigers, eventually receiving a Division 1 ranking from all three judges (the highest ranking you can earn) at the UIL region marching contest at Calallen High School. The band then moved onto the area marching contest on Dec. 12, placing 11th.
Area scheduling was a hassle in its own right. First, the competition that usually took place in October had been pushed back to the Dec. 12 date. Second, the cancellation of school from Goliad ISD prior to the scheduled Thanksgiving break left little time to practice.
“That’s been very challenging for the kids physically, mentally … (but) we were very lucky,” Snider said. “That’s all it was, was luck, that we didn’t get hit (with COVID-19). A lot of bands in the country, in the state were hit. I have several friends who were supposed to go to regional marching contests and they had signed up and then they got hit with it, so they couldn’t attend. Several bands in our area, that happened to.”
The Roaring Tigers pulled through, gathering up enough practice time to be able to perform at the area contest. While 11th wasn’t the ideal place for Snider, he was proud of his troupe for even making it.
“The students wanted to compete, they wanted to do well. … I feel like with the dark cloud hanging so many things going on with kids, I was so proud of our kids for getting through it, for preserving and doing what they could to survive and make it happen,” he said.
Snider’s focus now turns to preparing Bennett and Trevino for their individual area level performances. These performances have also taken a pandemic turn, going virtual, with recordings having to be made in the GHS band hall.
Performances will take place on Saturday, with the Tiger duo receiving a fair shake in the opportunity to audition for the state’s top high school unit.
“We have a special microphone that we have,” Snider said. “We were lucky here, it was already here, other schools had to purchase (theirs) to get a good sound on everything. You’re limited to what you can do, rule-wise, they won’t let you (get) all the great recording stuff they have, to make it fair when they record individually … you can’t enhance the quality of the recording.”
After the duo auditions, Snider will start preparation for solo ensemble competition in February, as well as an April concert event. Despite all the hoops he and his unit have jumped through, he still talks about the present and future with excitement.
“That’s what I love about music,” he said. “It makes you forget about all the dark things going on around us.”