On August 3, 2019, the city of El Paso, Texas lived the horror that towns across America pray will never befall them. The El Paso shooting, purportedly a hate crime targeting diverse ethnicities, claimed the lives of 22 individuals and wounded a number more. For such a tight-knit community, this tragedy was felt by all. For the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) this was a rallying cry; an opportunity to celebrate the very thing that bound that community together: its diversity.
On August 31, 2019, the UTEP Marching Miners performed a halftime show at their home game against Houston Baptist titled "Celebrating El Paso." Dr. Andrew Hunter, Director of Athletic Bands for the UTEP Marching Miners, explained that they "wanted the world to see that we are stronger than ever in our resolve to celebrate the various cultures in our region." And band together, they did!
According to Dr. Hunter, this performance was not the intended show for the August 31 game day. He explained that the entire game day community thought it would be "meaningful to celebrate our city and its culture" as opposed to their intended show. The performance was designed to fill the field with diverse artists that are part of the fabric of the community. He explained that this was an opportunity to send a strong message that ALL of El Paso was in this fight together. Dr. Hunter envisioned a performance that included the Marching Miners, all local school districts, and local community groups.
The team cast an "all-call" to local community entities, hoping as many as possible would agree to be a part of the performance. Dr. Hunter hoped that as he pulled through for his community, his community would pull through for him.
This all occurred right as our school year began, so the school groups in particular had every viable excuse to decline. Still, [the community] of El Paso responded to the call and came through for their city."
The community presence on the field was astounding! The halftime roster included 500 marching performers, 1000 including the cheer and dance groups who performed prior to the band's show! This included:
Dr. Hunter emphasized that his students are always open to new ideas. "That said," he continued, "mariachi music is NOT an easy [genre] for a large ensemble to perform." He explained that the style is ambiguous, with intricate techniques and vocals. But his students worked vigorously on the music and drill. And if coordinating 500+ performers to play in sync doesn't seem challenging enough, UTEP only had 45 minutes to rehearse as a full community ensemble!
He thanks his team, Dr. Curtis Tredway, former Director of the Marching Miners, for arranging the music on such short notice, and Leslie Lopez, the UTEP dance coach, for choreographing the show!
So how does a community overcoming tragedy not only bring the game day hype to the stands, but also show support to their halftime performers? They roar! Dr. Hunter explained that the performance was "unlike any other I have every experienced." For the students, the impact of what they were doing didn't fully hit them until they entered the field at halftime. "The crowd roared before we even began playing," Dr. Hunter exclaimed!
For the band, it was important to be able to respond to the tragedy in some meaningful way. "For us to be able to take the field and perform this traditional music with our community partners," Hunter explained, "and have our crowd sing and dance along was extremely meaningful for all of us. It has truly changed the course of our program for good."
The community truly pulled through for their band, their football team, and for each other. The shared support lived by the entire stadium DID send a strong message. The video of the performance spread worldwide. Dr. Hunter received correspondence from strangers who shared the video on their own channels and talked about the impact the performance had on them personally. That was the most meaningful aspect for him.
Dr. Hunter sums the message up perfectly.
We are grateful to have been a small part of the larger community response to this violent act. Someone came to El Paso...to stifle who we are as a community...because they believed that our country is weaker when we are diverse. We know that our city, state, and country are not weakened, but strengthened by our diversity. We celebrate that diversity, because it is a large part of what makes El Paso one of the greatest cities in the United States of America!
When an individual stands up to adversity with professionalism, resolve, and dignity, it shows courage and strength. When an entire community rallies together to show they are stronger than that adversity, it creates waves that cannot be calmed. The Marching Miners sang their call to arms, and their community sang back in response. They proved that through music, dance, and fellowship, any hardship could be won. It will not fix the wrongs of the past, but it can pave the way to a stronger, more hopeful tomorrow. It is that #bandtogether resolve that shows the true character of a community.
If you know a band or color guard program that extends beyond their program, that represents their band as leaders in the community, and that is a true steward of the activity, we want to highlight them. You can reach out to us via personal message on Facebook (Director's Showcase) or Twitter (@DShowcase). Help us spread the #bandtogether story.
Danielle Lavrenz lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, Morton High School, Waukesha North High School, and Greendale High School. Geier is a member of the DSI Marketing Team and currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she teaches at Greendale High School. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.