The Midlothian Heritage High School band director counted down the band. One. Two. Ready, go. With the count, music from Aladdin filled the band hall as about 80 students played together.
Band director Keith Davis noted the band wasn’t always this large. It has more than doubled in the past three years, and he said he sees it growing even more.
“We’re starting to develop more of a normal size band, at least for marching band,” he added. “With the growth, it helps us be more competitive.”
The band has even won a sweepstakes award this year for marching and concert competition despite the smaller scale band for a 4A school.
Davis said most 4A schools have a band that is anywhere from 80-100 students. He foresees the band reaching that 100-member plateau next year.
He noted that much of that growth is because of the work done just down the road at Walnut Grove Middle School.
“They do a great job getting the kids to enjoy what they are doing and to work hard,” Davis added. “They retain their kids from year to year really well. That bleeds over into high school.”
The band started when Heritage opened in 2014 with 34 students participating.
“Over the course of that first year, they started to get used to the new environment and create a culture for Heritage,” he said. “That really helped us band together and be able to be successful and be like a family this year.”
Fast forward five years and that 30-plus-member band is the size of the Jaguars freshman class alone.
“We still have a lot of that family feel, and the kids look out for each other,” Davis said. “I think that’s the real positive thing about the band. We see each other a lot.”
Davis said the marching band will benefit the most from the growing numbers. It will make the show look better and add volume to the sound.
The growth doesn’t just attribute to the instruments. It now has a full color guard, jazz band and drumline, all of which are competitive, Davis said.
“The kids, they’re really pushing ahead,” he said. “Every year they get better not just in numbers but with their skill level.”
If the growth continues, Davis said the band will split into two bands for class scheduling and to make up for the limited playing space.
Senior trumpet player Jacob Graham started playing in the band when he was in middle school, and he has kept with it ever since. He saw the growth first hand at Heritage when he started as a freshman.
In that time, he saw instruments added and the addition of a drumline, he said.
Graham said he remembers in his freshman year there were seven trumpet players and one tuba player, which made it difficult to find a balance in sound. Now, that problem is almost nonexistent.
“It’s a lot. There’s a bigger sound,” he noted.
Sophomore trumpet player Savannah Lassetter was recruited to join the band when she was in fifth grade and started playing once she entered middle school.
Lassetter didn’t have the same experience as Graham and considered the band last year of about 70 to be rather small. She said she enjoys the growth of the band and the sense of community it brings with it.
“You can have more support with the music or the marching,” she said. “There’s more people to talk to.”
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty