By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Outside of athletics, the one department at Port Isabel High School that this writer has always been most interested in is the instrumental music program. As the self-proclaimed, “Old Snare Drummer from Iowa,” I have enjoyed the football halftime performances of the marching band for many years. I make it to a concert when I can and from time to time I slip quietly into the band hall and listen in on practices.
The accomplishments and overall quality of the band program at Port Isabel High never cease to amaze me. I recently sat down and talked with a few of the high school band students to get their thoughts on the state of the program and why they are in it.
Students Freddy Cimermancic, Grecia Sandoval, Derek Valdez, Deven Davila, and Michael Bernard all sat down with me this week and answered some questions. All five are dedicated members of the band program and willingly shared their thoughts about it. All five are under-classmen and plan to remain involved with the program for the rest of their high school years.
The usual time for students in the Port Isabel school system to get started in the instrumental program is the 6th grade. There is no junior high marching band, so most music students get their first taste of that side of the program the summer before their freshman year.
Sophomore (2015-16) Freddy Cimermancic looked forward to marching with the high school band for years. “I would see the drumline in the parade, and I would just think it was really cool what they were doing.” When the time came Cimermancic at first tried out for brass, coronet and euphonium. “I didn’t really like it. Mr. Hartsfield told me to go to the percussion section and I did all right.”
Grecia Sandoval, another sophomore, is also a percussionist. She can play various instruments but prefers snare drum, and she enjoys having Mr. Hartsfield as her director. “If you don’t know a part he’ll work with you till you get it.”
Derek Valdez, also a sophomore, plays the baritone saxophone. He got a bit of a head start because his sister preceded him in the program. “She got me ready for 6th grade, which is when they have tryouts. My sister inspired me to be in … the band program.” Derek’s sister is Ione Rodriguez, who is in college now in San Antonio. She also played saxophone and was drum major for her senior year. It’s becoming a family tradition – Derek will be the band’s drum major for the 2015 football season.
Junior Deven Davila is another one of the band’s sax players, alto for marching band and tenor for concert season. He described his first experience with marching band. “It was very different, going from sitting down in a band all year to learning to march. I love it. It’s really a thrill, marching on the field and seeing all the people watching us perform.”
The assistant drum major for the upcoming school year will be sophomore Michael Bernard. A percussionist, he was brought up to the high school band a year early, and was one of the first eighth-graders to be on the field as a snare drummer. “I’ve been dreaming of being a drum major ever since I saw my first band show. I’ll be going to a drum major camp in San Benito.”
These teenage musicians are all very glad to be a part of the Port Isabel High instrumental program and think that Scott Hartsfield is as good a director as any in the Valley.
“He’s my favorite director overall,” Cimermancic told the Press. “He’s like the dad I never had. He’s, like, my band dad.”
“We not only achieve a lot but we also work together as a united group,” Sandoval said. “I think that’s what makes us really good.”
“Mr. Hartsfield is a phenomenal director,” Davila said. “He does great things with the music.”
“I think he’s a good teacher,” Bernard said. “I like the fact that he expects discipline.”
Many band members are planning to major in music in college and make it their life’s work. Of the five interviewed for this story three have declared for music, one (Bernard) for law and one (Valdez) is undecided. Sandoval plans a double major in music and criminal justice.
Summer practice for the whole band will begin July 15, and the frontal ensemble part of the percussion section will report to the band hall June 29. From July 20 through August 21 the band will practice Monday through Friday, morning and afternoon. Summer vacation just isn’t what it used to be, but when the Silver Tarpon Marching Band takes the field for the first halftime show of the season on August 28, all in attendance should know how much hard work went into it.
The reward for all that hard work, before it even begins, is a trip to Florida. A 6 p.m. departure by bus from the high school was planned for this Thursday. About 75 band members will have a great time at Disney World and a clinic and performance at Epcot Center is planned for Sunday, the 31st. Band members and directors will return to Port Isabel June 2.
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