Harlingen High School drum section practicing before Summer Band Camp

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Harlingen High School students prepare for Summer Band Camp. (Travis Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — They stood behind their xylophones and their marimbas and their vibraphones in a place called “The Pit” with their mallets prone and rather eager to start.

But the kids in “The Pit” in the Harlingen High School choir room weren’t playing their instruments — not yet — but learning and practicing their technique to play a song of perfection this school year.

“Feel the weight of the mallet stuck between your palm and your index finger,” said Assistant Band Director Rob Larios.

“Put your thumb back on and your thumb goes on top,” Larios continued. “Good, now let’s try the left hand, one more time.”

Summer Band Camp will begin in full swing July 16, and both comprehensive high schools — HHS and Harlingen High School South — have already begun their sectionals.

The students at HHS were excited about starting drum camp this week and Summer Band Camp next week.

“We are practicing for our new season,” said Harmony McKelvy, 16, a junior.

“We are practicing for the music that we are going to be showing,” said Harmony, who plays marimba one.

She and Ricardo Salas, 17, who plays marimba two, had stepped away for a moment to talk about the coming year.

“I am loving it,” Harmony said. “It’s going to be a great year.”

“I think we are doing our best,” said Ricardo, a senior.

“We did a lot of practice throughout this year so we’re going to do a lot better,” said Ricardo.

There was a pause and he added, “The music is a lot better than last year.”

He and Harmony shifted slightly their posture that conveyed uneasiness and revealed that last year the Cardinal band had not made it to state in UIL for the first time in many years. It was obviously still a painful shock, evident on their faces as they recalled last year.

They had little to say about it verbally, however, preferring to focus more directly on this year and their determination to perform beyond expectations at the fall competitions.

“We are doing a LOT better,” Harmony said with emphasis.

Harlingen High School students prepare for Summer Band Camp. (Travis Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

Larios had little to say about last year, only that many factors could play into a season’s disappointment. A popular adage, and true, says, “We all have our setbacks.”

Such phrases stated too frequently can become worn out cliches, but this line is quite true, especially when you consider that HHS has taken state every year since 1998. There’s always a hiccup in such a stellar record, but the hiccup can provide a fine catalyst for determination and renewal and grand success.

That’s what Larios sees in his students, as does anyone observing the kids. Larios believed last year’s music was actually very good, and this season’s year promises to give the students great opportunities and challenges and successes.

This year’s show at HHS includes one dynamic number from the 1990s: “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, said Larios.

In the afternoon “The Pit” of vibraphones and marimbas and xylophones had cleared the choir room and now “The Battery” of snare drums and tenor drums and base drums.

The boom-boom-boom and tah-tah-tah and rumbling of the drums rolled out of the room and into the hallways and onto the humid parking lot outside, and inside a John Guzman was doing a clinic with the musicians on their drum technique.

“Is it firm before?” Guzman said along with the tap of a stick on a drum. “Is it firm right when it hits?”


“Or is it firm after?” Guzman tapped again.

Snare drum player Gabriela Sandoval, 16, was enjoying her first day of drum camp.

“It’s going pretty good,” said Gabriela, a junior.

“I was really nervous but the people we have are really fun to work with,” she said.

Drum camp continues until Thursday, with Summer Band Camp starting for both schools on Monday.