Jag band director “bands” his band together during COVID

By Patty Hullett
For the Mirror

Second year band director Rich Bahner, says he truly enjoys leading the “Mighty Jaguar Band” of Heritage High School.

He admits that his favorite thing about his amazing career is “to help students achieve ‘musicality’. It is always my desire to push our students to find their potential, and then to teach them how to perform to a high standard as a high school band. I am lucky to teach these students at Midlothian Heritage HS. But my tasks have not been easy since the COVID pandemic hit our area.”

Bahner lists some of the differences his band has to contend with since last spring, when the virus became a way of life for everyone – and now with the fall football season.

“Our students have only been able to participate in home games this fall, except for our final playoff game versus Paris High School (traveling to Paris, in east Texas)," he says. "Our students have had to adapt to playing 10 feet apart, which is quite a change for us. Normally, band students work at 4 to 5 feet away from each other. This has created a listening environment that is very different for all of the students. We have also had only two bands travel to our home field, and only one of them has actually performed. It is an unusual year so far, in that we normally see at least 10 bands perform, plus even more in playoff games.”

Despite the changes, the band director proudly states, “We have an amazing football team and coaching staff, as well as a wonderful drill team, The Belles. Being able to perform to support them, as well as other activities the band is involved with at Heritage, motivates the students to do their best job possible. This year, we also changed our competition show to highlight great music from the 80's. Pop music is hard to perform, but students really enjoy playing it.”

Outdoor contests had to make some changes as well, and no band was allowed to watch other bands perform and had to leave after their own performance, said Drum Major Kynnady Sparks.

“Football season has been pretty interesting this past year. With all the regulations due to COVID-19, we’ve had to make quite a few changes for the safety of everyone within the band," Sparks said. "Most instruments required covers, and uniforms became something we had to take on the trucks with our equipment, rather than getting dressed in the band hall before the game." 

Despite all of the wild stuff that has happened this year, Sparks said it's been a lot of work but a lot of fun as well.

The MHHS Jag Band recently competed in the Region 5 U.I.L competition and earned

“superior” ratings from every judge. This honor gave the group a chance to travel to Buda, Texas for the Area D competition on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Hays I.S.D. stadium, where they came in 15th place. Bahner says, “The band did perform extremely well, and I am very proud of their effort.”

Bahner's wife, Kelli, is a music educator at North Oaks Middle School, where she is also a teacher in Birdville I.S.D. They have two children, daughter, Bella, who is a music teacher in Birdville I.S.D., and son, Raylen, who is an “Entrepreneur Major” at Oklahoma University and part of the Pride of Oklahoma marching band.