Two South Side-area high schools bookended the 81st Annual Battle Of Flowers Band Festival April 25 at Alamo Stadium.
The Southwest Legacy High School Titans performed the opening prelude of the festival, which featured performances from 36 high school bands. The Harlandale High School Indians gave the final individual performance of the night.
It was a warm spring day with the sun shining over the stadium’s track and football field as bands prepared for performances, fans found their seats and media crews set up recording equipment.
Lines at concession stands grew longer as more people filed into the stadium.
Southwest Legacy band majors inspected their band members and made sure they were in their correct attire: Titan helmets, green and gold cape, black shoes, black pants and black coat.
A few minutes before their opening prelude with Southwest High, Legacy band major Brisa Serrano fixed a clarinet key for a band member.
The two bands performed “Texas, Our Texas” and “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” on the Alamo Stadium field.
After the prelude, the first bands, dance teams and color guards lined up along the track to warm up.
“Bands, you have two minutes to warm up, only two minutes, and after I will tell you to stop and performances will begin,” said the event narrator over the loudspeaker.
The stadium rumbled as drum sections played cadences. The horn and woodwind sections joined in to get tuned.
Soon, it was the Titans’ turn to perform their two-minute piece, an original composition by one of their own members. Students smiled as they awaited their turn.
The announcer called their name. The Legacy Titan Band marched to the center of the field in front of the audience. Midway through the song, band members incorporated dance moves. After their cue, they got into formation and finished by chanting “Viva Fiesta!” as they ran off the field.
Practice makes perfect for Southwest Legacy
It took a lot of rehearsing to reach that point. Earlier that morning, Southwest Legacy band members shared their story during an interview in the high school’s band practice room.
“High Hopes,” the two-minute arrangement the band performed Thursday night, was composed by trombonist Daniel Moreno. Moreno said he arranged the piano arrangements, used single instruments and wrote the ins and outs for the entire band.
“It took about a month or two to record but it took me a few weeks to fix it up,” Moreno said.
Moreno took to heart a few lyrics from the song “High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco. He told his parents he was going to turn it into a tune the band could play. The lyrics that inspired him were, “They say it’s all been done but they haven’t seen the best of me. So I got one more run and it’s gonna be a sight to see.”
Moreno said he never saw himself as just a kid who played trombone but as a composer of music as well.
In the band practice room that morning, band majors Serrano, Miranda Costilla and Daija Vanegas were taking care of business.
Before heading to Alamo Stadium for rehearsal, Vanegas walked around putting sunscreen in everyone’s hands.
“Look at her taking care of her little duckies,” said band director Amanda Balarin.
Daija then yelled, “Marching band warm-up!” Band members obeyed the call and got into rows.
“Wow! Good stuff,” said Brisa as she motivated her band members.
Before heading out, the band director got on top of a chair and ordered them to get ready to play ”This Is Me,”
“‘This Is Me,’ real quick — two minutes,” Balarin commanded.
The band members prepared in seconds and began playing the song.
Once they finished, band majors made sure everyone had their things ready to go.
Make sure you have all three productions in your flip folder,” Vanegas said.
As they prepared to load the buses, Brisa asked the tubas and percussions to go first. She then ordered everyone to get on the bus by grade level.
The Titan Band returned for the second year to compete in the Battle of the Bands with twice as many members as the year before.
“We nearly doubled in our second year of existence. We had 86 our first year,” Balarin said.
This year, the band has 145 band members.
Balarin said they found it rewarding to have been asked to be the opening prelude band given that this is only the second year the Titans had performed at The Battle of the Bands.
This year is bittersweet for Costilla, a senior. She said looking out into the crowd and seeing all the bands on the field made her realize that music will never die, all of the hard work was worth it and the fine arts in San Antonio are appreciated.
Costilla said she can’t wait to return to her high school and become a band director after college.
Harlandale Indians drop mic
The Harlandale High School Indians were just as pumped for their performance.
At the stadium that night, Steven Iglesias, a senior front ensemble player for Harlandale, said the band devoted a lot of time to practicing “Mic Drop” by BTS.
“We spent about a month preparing for it. … We even knew the piece we were doing prior to the band festival but we still spent a lot of time preparing,” Iglesias said.
Front ensemble is the stationary percussion section typically up front for display; everybody sees and hears them first for the most part. Front ensemble includes instruments such as xylophones, snare drums, cymbals, triangles, timpani, as well as other percussive instruments.
“I was invited to play for Harlandale’s front ensemble as an eighth grader and it’s been great to be able to do this for five years,” Iglesias said.
Iglesias explained how the festival would work, with each band making their respective pass on the track while playing one song that would be about two minutes long.
Harlandale’s band and color guard represented their school wearing maroon with accents on gold and black.
Two staff members from Harlandale led the way, holding a maroon banner with gold lettering that said “Harlandale Indians” accompanied with the school’s band insignia.
The Harlandale band made its way to their performance of “Mic Drop” with percussion from the drum line keeping the group in step until they reached the center of the track.
The color guard was dancing and twirling flags, exemplifying the sounds being produced by the band while conductors maintained the band’s movement and play.
While the band performed, there was movement and excitement from fans in the stands as well as on the field from other bands who are watching.
Just as it seemed to start, the energetic performance ended, and the crowd exclaimed its satisfaction with a roar and applause.
Harlandale was the last band to perform before the festival’s grand finale: a performance by 5,000 students from the different schools playing on the field. The stadium shook as the bands played medleys of songs including “March Grandioso,” “The Eyes of Texas,” “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, “Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys,” “Come & Get It” by Selena Gomez and “Deep in the Heart of Texas” for the festival’s fireworks finale.
Neither Harlandale nor Southwest Legacy left Alamo Stadium with awards.
However, for at least one band member, the experience itself was enough.
“Participating in the band festival genuinely gave me a better insight to how much our community cares about what we do,” Moreno said in a follow-up interview April 28. “Fiesta brings out the best in the community.”
Other South Side high schools at the festival included South San, Southside, Highlands and McCollum, whose band won a first-place band award in Category 5A. McCollum and East Central High School each also won a Celebration of Music Grants and a Tobin Future of Music Grant.
Reporters Kathy Lopez and Jordan T. Spice are students in COMM 2311, Media Writing. Photographer Devina Saez is in COMJ 3328, Photojournalism 1. Lopez followed the Southwest Legacy Titans for this story; Spice followed the Harlandale Indians.