The Lopez Early College High School Band may be smaller this year than in years past, but don’t let their size fool year.

The band is determined to get a superior rating on Saturday as they participate in the annual UIL Pigskin Jubilee that will be held at Bobby Marrow Stadium in San Benito. Brownsville ECHS bands from Porter, Veterans, Pace, Rivera and Hanna will also participate. Other bands in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that will also perform include La Feria, Port Isabel, Rio Hondo, Harlingen, Harlingen South, Los Fresnos and San Benito.

A separate Pigskin Jubilee will be held in Mercedes also on Saturday with bands from La Villa, Santa Maria, Lyford, Monte Alto, Santa Rosa, Progreso, Raymondville, Donna, Edcouch-Elsa, Mercedes, Weslaco East, Donna North and Weslaco.

Lopez ECHS band received a superior rating when it participated in the Pigskin Jubilee in 2019 and advanced to the two next rounds of competition. About 45 to 50 members in the 2019 performance will be on the field trying to get another winning rating. The 2020 Pigskin Jubilee was canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alexa Sanchez, a senior and drum major, said she and other band members have been relaying to the younger band members as to what it feels like to receive a superior rating. She remembers when she was in their position.

“I would always hear the upper classmen tell stories that we always made state, it was always fun…I always heard those stories and it motivated a lot of us to keep going,” she said.

The band began practicing for its Pigskin Jubilee performance during summer band and at the start of the football season and continued to add additional segments as the weeks passed. Under UIL rules, high schools bands cannot practice over eight hours in the span of a week.

“We’ve always had days where we are stressed, we feel defeated but in the end we are always going to work through it. That is what kept me going and we still enforce that to this day, like ‘hey guys I know it’s tough but it’s worth it in the end when all your hard work is paying off,” that’s a type of motivation we use,” she said.

The Lopez Lobos Marching Band performs a full run-through of their competition routine Thursday during the last marching band rehearsal before the 78th Annual Pigskin Jubilee Marching Contest in the parking lot at Lopez Early College High School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The pandemic affected this year’s marching band size, said Band Director Ramon Vasquez, and the drill writer had to make adjustments to the routine that would be performed. The band has 87 members where in years past that number would be a lot higher.

Vasquez said this year’s band also has members that hadn’t played an instrument since middle school. “It’s been great teaching more students and sharing that love of music making regardless of their ability level. I wanted to make sure that those kids had a chance to continue doing something there are passionate about,” he said.

Saturday’s performance is about 6 ½ minutes long and the band will be performing or rather playing several opera songs. The band’s show is titled Opera-toon-ity Knocks. Their selections include Procession of the Nobles by Rimsky-Korsakov, the Barber of Seville Overture by Rossini, Nessum Dorma by Puccini and the William Tell Overture by Rossini.

Sanchez is charged with directing the band – using her hands to direct the tempo – during its performance. She has been in band since middle school. Sanchez started off playing the cornet and transformed into playing the French horn and now the mellophone. This will be her last year performing with the band.

“As a senior in general it’s always been a little sentimental because you have been doing this for four years and knowing this is your last time with the program and with the people, I get sentimental after awhile but at the same time you are going to remember this when you are old, so it feels bittersweet.”

This will the first time Luis Rangel, a sophomore at the high school, will be performing at Pigskin. He plays the clarinet and has been playing the instrument for five years. He has a solo performance that will last about 30 seconds during part of the routine.

“The nerves don’t really kick in until before the performance that is when I feel it, the nerves,” Rangel said.

He said every week that he and the band perform, his confidence grows.

Although he added that he might be nervous right before Saturday’s performance, it will go away once he actually starts playing the clarinet.

The following is a list of times BISD HS bands are scheduled to perform on Saturday:

>> Porter – 6 p.m.

>> Veterans – 6:15 p.m.

>> Pace – 7 p.m.

>> Lopez – 7:15 p.m.

>> Rivera – 8:30 p.m.

>> Hanna – 9:30 p.m.

Tickets to Saturday’s Pigskin Jubilee are $8 per person.

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View the full photo gallery by Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey here:

Photo Gallery: Prepping for pigskin