McALLEN — Twenty-two high school marching bands from Central and South Texas kicked off the 2021 Bands of America regional championship competition here at the Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday; however, extreme heat which reportedly led to some students fainting prompted officials to interrupt the event after about half a day’s worth of performances.
Bands that were unable to perform were rescheduled to take the field later Saturday night, when an awards ceremony was also planned. The temperature around the 1 to 2 p.m. hour was at 97 degrees and it felt like over 100 degrees.
The McAllen school district hosted the preliminary round of the Music for All’s Bands of America marching band championship with bands from the Rio Grande Valley, Del Rio, Grapevine and Austin.
Amid the other locations that joined McAllen in kicking off the 2021 BOA regional championships were Powder Springs, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio.
Bands performed for eight minutes according to UIL rules and played three ballads.
Angel Martinez, director of bands for McAllen Memorial, said the title of his band’s show is “Neon Dreams,” and is centered around the theme of light and color.
The band chose music with titles that embody light and color such as “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd, “Light and Gold” by Eric Whitacre and a piece titled “Stained Glass.”
Martinez said he is excited to have the students play music that is unconventional in the marching band realm and enjoys seeing the students light up when they get to play hits they hear on the radio.
Kassandra Gonzalez, senior drum major for the McAllen Memorial band, said she was most excited to perform the song by The Weeknd because she is a big fan.
With this being a state year for the district, Martinez said this competition is truly an evaluation to see how the band will fare at the annual Pigskin competition.
“It feels like we came back home,” Martinez said. “It’s really good to be back and doing this, to have the kids doing the activity, it’s really great despite the heat.”
Joseph Garza, senior drum major for the McAllen Memorial band, said, “It feels amazing to get right back at it. We had to take somewhat of a half-season off and it’s really exciting to get into a brand new school year and get to be competing in a contest with all these other wonderfully talented bands. … We’re looking to show the audience that we’re back and we’re here to compete.”
The band has been practicing for this performance since July.
Vania Flores, senior drum major for the McAllen Memorial band, said the most challenging part of the experience has been practicing in the heat whilst wearing a mask.
“It makes it hard to breathe with the mask on, and especially since we took that year off, sometimes we have to sit down and take things a little bit slower, but for the most part we get the job done even with the mask and social distancing,” Gonzalez said.
The band was next to perform at 2:15 p.m. before the event was halted due to an extreme heat weather advisory.
After multiple students suffered fainting spells due to the heat, Bands of America issued a statement Saturday afternoon.
“Prelims were suspended earlier to ensure the safety of the student performers, due to the impact of high temperatures,” the statement reads. “This schedule change means that there will not be a Finals competition in McAllen tonight. … All band’s drum majors are invited to be a part of tonight’s awards ceremony where awards will be presented in each class and 1st through 12th place based on adjudicated preliminary performances. Details regarding finals tickets will be posted on marching.musicforall.org Monday. “
McAllen Memorial was among the eight bands that did not get to perform at their scheduled times due to the delay.
The eight bands were scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. when the BOA was expected to reopen the gates to the stadium and were judged solely on their preliminary performances.
Aside from heat exhaustion there is another health factor looming over students as they step back on the field.
Miguel Davila, brother of Amy Davila, a junior clarinet player for Memorial, said he is proud of his little sister and often worries about her safety due to COVID-19 considerations.
“Sometimes I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you should go,’ but I also don’t want her to miss those opportunities that I had,” Davila said.
A former band member himself, Davila said it is difficult to watch his sister’s high school experience be derailed by the pandemic.
“I just want her to enjoy band as much as I did and it makes me happy when she comes home and says she enjoyed the lessons,” he said.
Like Davila, there are many who consider marching band to be an important part of high school and Valley culture and despite the many obstacles at Saturday’s event, the community cheered in high spirits with each performance.
The 2021 Bands of America Grand Nationals will take place Nov. 11 through the 13 where a minimum of 30 bands will advance to the semi-finals competition.