Percussionists Report for Duty

Special to the PRESS

The Port Isabel High Silver Tarpon Marching Band’s percussion section is wasting no time getting ready for the upcoming season. It’s only the first week of July and already some members of the elite squad have hit the school’s music room for some early practices.

The percussion section of the marching band is actually divided into two parts, the battery and the frontal ensemble.  The battery is another name for drum line, which includes the snare, tenor, and bass drums.  The frontal ensemble includes just about everything else.  “It’s all of the keyboard instruments up front – synthesizers, xylophone, marimba, bells, all the “effects” percussion,” explained Scott Hartsfield, the head director of bands for the Port Isabel school system.

The frontal ensemble gathered in the band room at the high school for their first practice this past Monday.  Meanwhile, the battery will make its first practice appearance on July 13th.  “Normally we have the battery come in first and the ensemble second,” Hartsfield said.  “But we have some kids in battery on vacation, so we decided to put frontal ensemble first so we won’t have any missing when battery comes in.”

Hartsfield reports that the first two parts of the show that the band will perform at this year’s football games and marching contests are ready, and the ensemble is working their way through them this week.  It’s a lengthy and involved process that has each part of the show bouncing back and forth between the music composer, the drill (marching) arranger, the head color guard director, and Hartsfield and his assistants.

“Sometimes the music is to the T and works out great,” Hartsfield told the Press this week.  “Sometimes the drill arranger or the color guard guy will hear the music and (offer comments) and it goes back and forth.  We make changes all the way along through the whole process.”

Everyone, including the director, are expected to be on time for all practices, but this morning (Wednesday, the 1st) heavy rains made for a few late arrivals.  Nine frontal ensemble personnel were counted when all were eventually present.

“They’ve always been real good with me because they know I drive in from Harlingen,” Hartsfield said.  “This morning I got a call from Monica (Sandoval).  She called me and asked, ‘Mr. Hartsfield, are you O.K.?  Are you on the way here?’  And I was like, I’m on the way!  I’m, like, two minutes from the high school.”

“The kids have an open mind with me.  It’s a mutual respect.  And, of course, if they’re not here I’ll give them a call, too, and see what’s going on.  It’s a cool situation we have here.  Everybody’s got each other covered,” he added.

Hartsfield likes what he has seen and heard so far this week and, as per the usual, will have several eighth-graders in percussion and the band as a whole.  The Port Isabel Junior High does not have a marching band program.

“We’ve had everybody here (100% attendance).  It’s going well.  It’s a young group but they’re picking up really well.  Our frontal ensemble, the kids that are here right now … it’s mostly eighth-graders, and probably about three or four high school kids.”

The band as a whole is going to be young, Hartsfield said; “A lot of our depth is in the freshmen and sophomore classes.”

And it will be a larger band this year.  “The program overall should be up by 20 to 30 kids.  We’ve designed the show around these strengths.”

This week’s practices for the frontal ensemble will go through Thursday and then they will take the weekend off starting Friday, due to Saturday being July 4th.  No practices are scheduled for next week.  Snares, tenors, and bass drums will report Monday, the 13th, and the percussion section as a whole will start working together a week later.  The rest of the band will start coming on July 15th.

The first football game of the 2015 season will also be the home opener.  The Tarpons will host Rio Grande City Grulla on August 28th.

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