The highest of difficulties was met with the greatest effort yet by Goliad High School’s Percussion Ensemble.
In March, the quartet of Alex McCaskill, Colby Sarlls, James Trevino and Nicholas Rodriguez received the best grade possible, a “1,” on a Class 1 piece entitled “Perpetuo,” at the UIL Solo and Ensemble Competition. The four will now head to the state competition next month, looking to test their skill against the best of Texas.
A Class 1 piece, the toughest level of piece to master for the Roaring Tigers, required precision on the part of the four. Another factor in the UIL performance was its virtual nature due to COVID-19, as opposed to a live performance.
“The kids get to record two or three times, instead of going in there once and getting one shot in front of a judge,” GHS Band Director James Snider said. “For them, it was just a great experience.”
This is the first time in band program history that an ensemble will be heading to the state competition, which will also be held virtually for 2021. The quartet will have until May 15 to submit their state performance.
Regardless of their performance at state, the ensemble’s achievement of a “1” grade on a Class 1 piece is a generational success.
“You have to play really well,” Snider said of his students’ mastery. “You have to know all your notes, you have to play with dynamics, you have to play with a lot of energy, you just have to really know the music. Because the judge can tell if you’re messing up ... the kids were able to play the music, they were able to prepare for the music.”
The comment on playing with “energy” was a common compliment for the ensemble, as well as the band as a whole during their UIL Concert and Sight Reading performance on April 14. Snider explains that “energy” is a process that can take years to learn.
“(Energy is) keeping the tempo up, not slowing down during fast stuff,” he said. “Especially for younger bands, it’s really difficult to play really fast. It’s like running a race. You get to the end of the race, you run out of air, out of energy. Keeping it all the way (through) without slowing is an ultimate goal when you’re playing something fast.”
The group of McCaskill, Sarlls, Trevino and Rodriguez were not alone in receiving a “1” rating at the UIL competition in March. Also given the honors were Bryan Camacho, Zavius Ringo, Allison Carbajal, Bobbi Jo Anklam, Cadence Auten, Rayne Williams, Gabriela Sertuche, Katrina Barnett, Chey Bridges, Kassidy Diebel and Ivy Hawkins.
Finding roaring success in the Tigers unit, Snider noted, did not just appear overnight.
“It’s a daily and weekly event,” he said. “It’s a culmination of building to that, trying to get to that level. Every band director will tell you that. You have these goals in mind, but it may not be the same the students want to get to. You try and push them in that direction. Sometimes you get there, sometimes you don’t, (you) just try your best, that’s all you can do.”
At the April 14 Concert and Sight Reading, the entire band got in on a three-song act, followed by what Snider calls a “pretty intense” sight reading portion. Students receive music that they haven’t seen before, having to “read” through it after seven minutes of deliberation.
Judges at the concert noticed that the band played with “good balance between sections” and “nice dynamic contrast,” among other positives. The performance was not without its challenges, particularly from the rainfall front.
“The thing that’s crazy is the weather we’ve had ... the humidity is very difficult for a band,” Snider said. “I don’t care if you’re in marching band, or concert band, or solo and ensemble, once that humidity hits it’s very difficult. It makes the instruments go very sharp. So, it’s a constant battle for tuning purposes. We experienced tuning issues on the stage that we didn’t have before.”
Other than the weather hindrance, Snider noted the concert went “very well,” and is another milestone for the Roaring Tigers unit. The students that make up the band take on the responsibilities head-on, along with schoolwork and other organizations.
“Some kids can handle that and do a very good job, some don’t,” Snider said. “That’s with every school district in the state, in every classification ... it’s just that way. You move on, you try to help them individually as much as you can to achieve a goal. What is that individual’s goal? You get them and push them to do better. Individual student success is what we’re all about.”