High School Bands are Marching On

Killeen HS band marches into Buckley Stadium
By: Todd Martin
It’s official. The band is back, and the dance team, and all the spirit they bring to a high school football game on a fall evening.
As a cool wind breezed into town Thursday, the Killeen High School Roo Band and Kangarettes dance team marched across the school parking lot into the south gate at Leo Buckley Stadium as the drumline played a steady cadence.
Far more than halftime entertainment, the band keeps the beat of Texas high school football.
The Roos opened district play against the Belton Tigers, a Thursday matchup that served as backdrop for the first performance of a Killeen ISD band and dance team in the unique year of 2020.
As part of the effort to mitigate virus spread, KISD’s four high school bands are limited this season to home district games. Shoemaker and Ellison squared off Friday with both bands performing for the first time.
Though Belton won the game against the Roos, the Killeen band brought the music and it was a welcomed sound. Audience members on both sides, as well as cheerleaders and observers on the sidelines moved to the familiar rhythms of the annual tradition.
For the students who rehearsed through the delayed schedule and continued uncertainty, it was a relief and a celebration.
“It’s great being out here,” said KHS head drum major Nick Mintz following the halftime show. “We’re having fun. We’ve been looking forward to this. I think for our first performance, this was great.”
Certain details, the senior band leader said, made the evening different. Normally, the band’s first performances of the season come in the swelter of an August evening and band members wear tan pants and maroon shirts.
On this night in the middle of October the band wore its full uniform, marched only the beginning of its planned routine and spent the game on the visitor’s side of the stadium.
“This is our first time in full uniform,” Mintz said. “We’ve been anticipating it all week.”
The band’s head drum major said he hasn’t begun to think through the reality of his last year of high school, last year in the band and leading on the field. For now, he’s relishing the chance to do what he loves.
Senior Elizabeth Phillips was feeling similar gratitude. The Kangarettes colonel said she didn’t let herself believe the dance team was finally going to perform until Thursday evening as the group prepared for their march into the stadium.
“It feels great,” she said, still breathing hard from the team’s high-energy performance. “It’s like a new experience. It’s unbelievable. I honestly didn’t think we would get to perform.”
Last week’s scheduled away game between Killeen and Waco High School was cancelled due to COVID-19 cases in the Waco school district.
“Today, when we were getting set to walk to the field,” Phillips said, “I thought ‘wow, this is happening.’ We are so excited to get back to working every week on our routine.”
“I haven’t really felt it yet, that this is my senior year,” said Mintz. “I think everything we’ve experienced just gives us more motivation to enjoy it.”
Ellison and Shoemaker drum majors expressed similar excitement and gratitude after performing at halftime Friday.
“Before I got on the field, I was kind of nervous,” said Shoemaker drum major Mykalla Yzoma. “After we got started, it was much better. It’s relieving. It’s the first time I’ve had this experience, this feeling of responsibility.”
Ellison drum major Gabriel Ferrer expressed joy at the familiar feeling of leading the band beneath the stadium lights.
“I’m really excited. It’s a familiar feeling to be back to Friday Night Lights, performing, doing what we love. It gives me confidence,” he said. “We’re making good progress. We’re here to work and improve. It feels like it was a good performance.”
The Killeen ISD Fine Arts Department scheduled an adjudicated marching showcase for all four KISD marching bands set for Saturday, Oct. 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Leo Buckley Stadium.