Five years ago, the Mesa High School Marching Band started band camp with just 35 students. Multiple superior ratings, two state championship nods and a 50 student increase later, the band will embark on its first out-of-state trip to perform at the Holiday Bowl in December.
“This will be like we get to show off what we have,” said drum major Rylee Crockett. “Two year state champs, we get to show the world what we’ve got now.”
When Robert Brooks began as the marching band director in 2007, judges told him his band would not be able to achieve a superior rating, the highest rating at marching band contests. Brooks told the students this, and they were inspired to work hard and they achieved a superior rating even with their small size.
“It didn’t bother me at all that we had a smaller band,” Brooks said. “I thought it was a lot of fun. It allowed me to take a lot more risks because we didn’t really have anywhere to go but up.”
Throughout his five-year stint as the marching band director, the band was named the division three state champions in 2009 and the division two state champions last year. This past championship prompted the invitation to the Holiday Bowl.
During their trip to San Diego, they will perform in the nationally-televised Big Bay Balloon Parade, perform at the halftime show at the game with 15 other bands and have the opportunity to compete with the other bands for a chance to perform before the game as well, said assistant director James Quamo.
Quamo said that when he was in high school, he had the opportunity to perform in Europe as a part of the intercollegiate wind ensemble. Coming from a small school, it was his first opportunity to perform in a large setting.
“For me, that was the reason I went into music, just having a very unique experience and an opportunity like that,” Quamo said. “I don’t know where I would’ve been without that experience or that opportunity. For some of these kids, this experience may be something along those lines for them.”
Brooks said the trip would be a chance for the band to strengthen their community because it will be the first out-of-state trip and the first overnight trip.
“Those kinds of things and raising the money to go, build within the group a sense of identity and ‘we can do this,’” Brooks said.
Now that they have the talent and the invitation to perform, the next hurdle is getting there. The trip will cost $658 per student.
One of the upcoming fundraisers is a band concert on Oct. 23 at Mesa High, featuring guest performers from the Phoenix Opera. Other fundraisers for the trip can be found on the Mesa High School Band Boosters’ website.
Quamo said many students have never heard other people play their instrument, so being involved in the halftime show with other bands will be good for their personal development.
“Many of these kids don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of the city of Mesa so for many of them the opportunity to go and be part of a large scale performance opportunity will ... be their first time,” he said.
Jessica, a junior studying journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern with the Tribune this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6548.