This school year, the Grand Island Senior High Islander band hopes to start a transformation that will change the culture of the band this school year.
“We really want to build our pride back up,” said senior drum major Ronal Hernandez. “We really want our spirit and jazz back.”
Around 180 band members participated in the eight-day band camp from July 29 through Aug. 7 at GISH. During the camp, members worked to get sets down on the field, worked on drills for their upcoming show and learned music for each part of the show. The camp was the first under the direction of new band director John Jacobs, GISH’s third band director in four years.
“This whole thing is a buy in to the program,” Jacobs said. “If you can get a small group of people to buy into it and start changing that culture, then the wheel just grows. Eventually, you are all the way off into the frame pieces of everybody. I think that is what we are seeing this week.”
Sofia Diaz, a senior drum major, said the Islander band has improved “so much” since the start of band camp and has also improved “a lot each day.” Hernandez said band members “got so much done” at band camp and did things had never done before.
“For some people, it is their first time doing it. It is crazy how fast you have to move and how fast you have to get things done,” he said. “Our season starts the last week in September and we’ve got to have it done by that time and ready to go.”
Turner Griffin, the third senior drum major, said band camp was beneficial to Islander band members as it allowed them to learn half of their field show.
“Choreography has been added and we have a basis for what we’re going to do this upcoming season,” he said. “It brings everybody up to meet each other, too.”
Jacobs said since the start of band camp July 29, students progressed each day as they worked on both music and marching elements, eventually combing the two.
“These band students are highly intelligent students and are just a smart bunch,” he said. “From the very first day I heard them, I knew I could expect a lot out of these guys. I told them I will expect a lot out of them based on what I saw in them and that they should expect a lot out of themselves as well. I think throughout the course of the eight days, we seen a transformation start. These kids are expecting a lot out of each other and a lot of themselves.”
Jacobs said his first year as GISH band director has been “very smooth.” He said he had 40 to 60 kids participate in voluntary band rehearsals to start his tenure, where he was able to develop relationships with students before band camp even started.
Zach Claassen, a senior trumpet section leader, said the rehearsals were beneficial.
“On Tuesday afternoons, we would have music rehearsal for an hour, work on the music, just make sure we were all learning it and have a basis for how it goes. On Wednesday morning, we would do marching fundamentals and learn some new marching techniques.”
Jacobs said in addition to his voluntary rehearsals, students have come together to try to help the band as a whole by hosting a student-led rehearsal last Tuesday. He said students participated in the rehearsal and invited “every musical person you could think of in this town” to watch their performance and give them advice on how to improve the band. Jacobs said he had no involvement in this and was “basically a chaperone.”
“I told the students this is our band, not my band,” he said. “The way I see myself as a director is as a facilitator. The talent and the leadership is here. Everybody in this organization is better at something than everybody else. If we all put those 200-some thoughts, visions and creativity together, we become an incredible monster where we are smarter and more creative than anything one person alone can come up with.”
Diaz said she felt it was important for the Islander band members to not initially make assumptions about how Jacobs would affect the state of the band program. At the end of band camp Wednesday, she said band members have welcomed him and feel close to him now.
Jacobs said the goals he has for the Islander band this season are to “improve, grow, become more connected to each other and become more connected to the music.” Griffin said the ultimate goal is to get superior ratings on their performances.