By Todd Martin
After a month of rehearsing in the summer heat, there is a bit of magic when high school bands first blast their driving rhythms and dance teams kick and swirl in the bright wash of stadium lights.
Magic is just what this year’s Ellison High School Screaming Eagle Band is going for with a show called “Rooftops of London” featuring music from the classic whimsy of Mary Poppins.
Once again, the magic begins with Spirit Spectacular, the annual showcase featuring Killeen ISD’s four high school bands. Ellison hosts the fundraising event for the 37th time.
This year’s spectacle is scheduled 8 p.m. Saturday, August 26 at Leo Buckley Stadium, two days before the first day of school. Tickets are $6. Children under 3 get in free.
Spirit Spectacular culminates summer band, which began July 17 for drum majors and percussion and a week later for the rest of the band members.
The annual event puts a spotlight on the hard-working members of marching bands, color guard units and dance teams without a football game or a judged contest.
“It’s a big performance to see what the four bands have practiced for,” said Ellison drum major David Smothers. “We practice for weeks in the heat and we want to give the best performance we can.”
The Ellison band will share the Buckley Stadium field with Killeen High School, Harker Heights High School and Shoemaker High School bands. All four bands get a cut of the proceeds.
Janovia Brown, also an Ellison drum major, said the start-of-year event is a preview for fans of the larger show to come and an important live practice for the band and its large group of new freshmen.
Ellison drum major Darrell Hall called the preparation and performance “training wheels” for the students new to marching. “It gives them a taste for fans cheering and motivation to get better.”
Ellison’s band plays in close coordination with the Emeralds dance team. Senior Joselyn Serrano, this year’s colonel, said Spirit Spectacular is special because it’s the first show for the team in front of a big crowd.
High kicks and precision routines are standard for the Emeralds, but this year’s show is featuring added dance challenges, including props and even some tap dancing.
“We are excited about our show,” said Serrano. “We will be dancing to our spots. The difficulty level is higher than usual.”
Most everyone involved in the show seems excited about the fun, familiar songs associated with Mary Poppins, but no one is smiling quite as widely as Emeralds Director Jennifer Zehr.
From childhood years in Germany watching the movie, she has been a fan and for many years has hoped to see the magical themes played out in the Eagles band and dance shows.
The beginning of the show features a medley of songs. “It will bring people back to their childhood,” said Brown, one of the drum majors.
“The Emeralds are a big part of the show,” said Band Director Jeff Smith. “They will use props and tap dance. It will be fun for the audience. There’s good fan appeal.”
For the seniors, Spirit Spectacular begins the end of high school and they want it to go out big.
“Performance is amazing,” said Serrano. “You do it with all your energy and it pays off at the end.”
“Putting it all together is rewarding,” said Brown. “You meet new people and they’re all different and we come together and do what we love.”
“I like being out there and hearing everyone play really loud,” said Smothers. “A few months ago a lot of them wouldn’t have done that.”
It’s like magic.
August 11, 2017