When the first eleven-foot-tall purple eyeglass frame peeked out from the Alamodome’s field entrance on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, it signaled that the Coppell High School Band was minutes away from performing in the UIL 6A State Marching Band Contest. The massive prop, one of five in total, along with alternating vinyl lenses, provided the colorful backdrop for Coppell’s 2016 marching show, “Now I See.” Brenda Norton, whose daughter Hannah is a junior euphoniumist, was watching from the stands. “I was nervous, scared and excited when Coppell walked on the field. There were so many good bands competing. When Coppell made finals I was ecstatic.”
The UIL state competition, held every other year, is the most anticipated event for Texas marching bands. Forty of the highest ranking 6A bands from across the state traveled to San Antonio to compete in the preliminary round, which began at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 8:45 p.m. on the 8th. Twelve bands advanced to finals on Wednesday, November 9th, including Coppell. Coppell wrapped up its 2016 marching season with an 11th place finish overall. “Coppell’s finals performance gave me chill bumps,” said Norton. “I’m very happy for them.”
“Being a state finalist in Texas means a great deal,” said Gerry Miller, Director of Bands for CISD. “The Lone Star State is the most competitive in the marching band arena, based on statistics. 239 bands entered the UIL Region contest, then had to qualify for area prelims, area finals, state prelims and state finals. The 12 state finalists represent the top 5% of Texas high school marching bands.”
“It was surreal to be on the podium in the Alamodome,” said senior Drum Major Rishav Rout. “It is every Texas band's dream to perform at the state marching contest finals.”
The journey to state was both rewarding and challenging for Coppell. 2016 marked a year of change for the band. In February 2016, Scott Mason, Coppell’s Head Band Director for 25 years, announced his retirement, followed by Doug Grice, Coppell Associate Band Director for 7 years, who retired in June. David Marchuk, Assistant Percussion Director for 5 years, also left. Newcomers Gerry Miller, Adrian Caswell and Matthew Rummel, all from Wakeland High School, and Jonathan Anderson, from Sherman High School, joined incumbent Coppell Band directors Brandon Slovak and Zach Scheer, to form Coppell Band’s new leadership team.
“The new directors have been able to harness the winning formula which led to the band’s success in the past, as well as introduce many improvements to help the student performers grow and develop. It has been great to see the willingness of the students take on these changes,” said Chris Quonoey, CHS Band Boosters President.
On September 24, 2016, Scott Mason’s sudden passing left the band, former students and colleagues grieving and numb. Hundreds reached out to remember Mason’s standards of excellence, his contributions to music education and the band program, and his dedication to teaching. “Mr. Mason’s death affected a lot of us and we were upset, but we were motivated to keep driving forward,” said Sasha Kiatsuranon, senior clarinet section leader.
“It was on the strength of our kids, our support staff, our parents and our community that we were able to pull together, stay on track and accelerate during the last few weeks of marching season,” said Miller. “The positive results we were seeing in terms of performance level, scores and feedback were attributable to the students who worked incredibly hard, the auxiliary staff and technicians who were invested in the success of the program, the parents who pitched in to help with everything from props to uniforms to logistics and more, and the community who rallied for us. It was a team effort.”
In addition, the directors continued to focus on the basics. “We set up a training process in July and stuck with it,” said Miller. “We never stopped working on fundamentals, and that was a difference-maker. We did a stretch-and-run every day, even the morning of state prelims. We were still working on marching basics and technique twelve hours before our finals run.”
The Coppell Color Guard stepped up to a new level this season. “The Guard started off as a few fragmented sections and ended as a team,” said Matthew Rummel, Color Guard Director. “By the state finals they were one of the best 6A color guards in the state. This is a true testament to their work ethic and their desire to rise to the challenge. They are exceptional students.”
The Coppell Drumline also had tremendous growth. “This is the youngest drumline I have taught since I began teaching in CISD, with approximately 60% of the group being ninth and tenth graders,” said Zach Scheer, Percussion Director for CISD. “These students have learned fast and performed well beyond their years. We are incredibly proud of them and the entire group.”
For junior Drum Major Ashna Pathan, trust was a big success factor. “I really learned to trust the members of the band,” said Pathan. “For example, I had to trust the new staff in order to ensure a smoother transition. I had to have faith that my friends would adapt quickly to all of the new ways of doing things. I also had to rely on the student leadership team to set an example and help push the rest of the band to their fullest potential. I learned things come a lot easier if you have confidence in the people around you and you empower them to find the best possible solutions.”
“At the end of the day our students grew not just as performers, musicians, and marchers, but as young men and women,” said Miller. “They learned to work together to find victory and create an artistically beautiful performance.” Rout added, “The band has progressed so much this year, overcoming struggles and changes. I'm excited to see where the band goes in the future.”
Coppell’s 2016 show, “Now I See” included the musical selections of “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, “Savannah River Holiday” by Ron Nelson, “It Is Well With My Soul” by Phillip Bliss and “107 Steps” by Bjork. Vocalists for “107 Steps” were junior Tori Kennedy and junior Amelia Vanyo. Soloists were senior Christian Thorp on trumpet – “It Is Well With My Soul”, and junior Benedict Farrell on trombone and junior Grant Knippa on trumpet – “107 Steps”.
The 2016-2017 Drum Majors are Sam Wang, senior clarinetist, Rishav Rout, senior trombonist, Kyle Whiting, senior clarinetist and Ashna Pathan, junior clarinetist.
The Coppell High School Band is led by Gerry Miller, Director of Bands for CISD, Adrian Caswell, Associate Director of Bands, Brandon Slovak, Associate Director of Bands, Matthew Rummel, Color Guard Director, Zach Scheer, Director of Percussion for CISD and Jonathan Anderson, Assistant Percussion Director. Wind technicians include Benjamin Brown, Thomas Burnette, Katherine Gunter, Chantal Hoang, Jared Hunt, Lauren Kim, TJ McCrea, Benjamin Miner, Allison Pryor and Devon Sheets. Color Guard technicians are Michael Alonzo, Kris Galbreath and David Stermer. Percussion technicians are Daniel Allen, bass technician, Doug Bush, battery arranger and technician, and Patricia Islas, front ensemble arranger and technician.
For more information about the Coppell High School Band, go to the band website at www.chsbandboosters.com.