By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
When you see the Port Isabel Silver Tarpon Marching Band out there on the football field on Friday nights in the fall, do you ever wonder where the shows that are performed come from? Do the head director and his assistants just put their heads together before the season begins and try to come up with something? Does the school pay someone outside the program to write a show just for the Silver Tarpon band? Or does the director just reach into a file of pre-written shows, pull one out, and say, “This looks like a pretty good one. Let’s try it.”?
Actually, it’s a kind of combination of all of the above. Your high school instrumental music reporter is a former marching/concert band and bagpipe band snare drummer from Iowa who has enjoyed, from inside and out, marching bands all his life. I recently sat down with the Port Isabel head director of bands, Scott Hartsfield, and picked his brain to find out how it’s done.
It actually goes back to the previous school year. Hartsfield works with a team of six assistant directors, and a color guard director, who take opportunities to see what marching bands around the state, and even the country, are doing. They collect ideas and report back to Hartsfield.
“We hear different selections of music throughout the year,” Hartsfield said this week. “We all come with an idea or concept – this might be good for a marching show. This year I met with my first assistant, Felix Hernandez, and Julian Howard, our color guard person for the program. They have heard some things that drum corps have done, that worked well for a show.”
All these ideas are batted around among the directors and a consensus is reached on a show that everybody thinks will look good at halftime of a football game this fall. A request is sent out to a composer to come up with a musical arrangement that will fit the show. It goes back and forth between the composer and the directors until a finished product is at hand.
It’s done in three stages, or parts, and the first two parts of this year’s show are complete. “Now it goes off to the percussion arranger,” Hartsfield said. “(He) is putting all the frontal ensemble stuff (together); xylophone, cymbals, all the battery percussion work. I start drum camp in about two or three weeks, so I’ll have the first two parts with the percussion stuff. By the time the rest of the band comes the third one will be completed.”
Summer practice for the percussion section of the band will start June 29th. The rest of the band will report July 15th. A Monday-Friday daytime schedule will continue well into August.
This year Hartsfield is delegating and dividing responsibility among his assistants slightly different than in the past. “I’m focusing primarily on the battery percussion, the frontal ensemble, and teaching the wind music. So instead of me teaching the footwork and the drill, now I’ve turned it over to them. They’re going to … come up with the color guard scheme and the visual concept of the show, while I’m putting the music on the field.”
“It’s my responsibility for the overall package, but somebody else is going to be teaching that (aspect) of the marching show. And if there are problems with the footwork, I’ll address it. But when I’m on the box this year I’m going to be closing my eyes and listening more.”
So it’s a little more complicated than when I was in the marching band at good old Hampton High in Iowa, a few years ago, and Maurice Feese was our head, and only director.
I asked Hartsfield for a preview of this year’s show. It’s entitled, “Outside the Box”. “We’re just going to take ideas, musically and visually, that maybe aren’t always the norm,” Hartsfield said. “So we’re taking it outside the box.”
The state marching band contest is held every other year and this is the off-year, but the Silver Tarpon band will still be participating in contests during the fall. “We’ll still be doing outside contests and we still push ourselves, just like it’s a state year, so the following year we’re stronger. We don’t take it easy.”
The band will be involved with marching contests every Saturday in October and the first two Saturdays of November. The first football game of the 2015 season will be on Friday, August 28, when Rio Grande City Grulla will visit Tarpon Stadium.
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