Pictured: Caitlyn Sullivan and other students keep their eyes on their flute instructor during summer band practice Wednesday. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Session will end with June 22 concert

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

For many families, joining band in the summer is a rite of passage.

The band program at Alice ISD is filled with generational stories of fathers or mothers participating in the program and having their children, years later, follow in their footsteps.

"My dad played it and my cousins played it. It's a family tradition," cornet student Israel Garcia said.

He says he feels no pressure from family members to play the instrument. He was happy to join the band program this summer and is looking forward to a future of practice and improvement. The same holds true for Zachary Villarreal, who comes from a strong musical family.

"I just like the cornet. My dad played the trombone, and I thought he could get it fixed and we could play together," Villarreal said. "I want to do well. There's a lot of responsibility with this instrument; you have to take care of it. I'm pretty excited."

Clarinet instructor Clara Guerra said all of the students were very excited to begin their band experience.

"They're a little timid, but more excited than scared. I think for them it's a chance to learn something new," Guerra said.

In the clarinet section, Guerra has 23 students, including two boys. She said the boys she has are a little more aggressive and ready to go than the girls.

"They want to play, and they want to take that instrument home," Guerra said. "I guess they want to show them up a little bit."

Nearly 160 students are participating in the summer band program, which will culminate with a concert on June 22 at Alice High School. Students are allowed to take their instruments home by the second or third week of practice, after they've been taught to care for the instrument and learn the fundamentals.

Joseph Rubio was one student who can't wait to take his cornet home.

"I'm very good at this instrument. I practice a lot here in class. Now I'm going to practice at home, and I plan on practicing a lot," he said.

Their instructor, Debbie Salinas, said the toughest part in teaching new band students is the repetition.

"You have to have a lot of patience. You just have to remember that some kids are going to catch on really fast, while with others, it's going to take awhile. They're going to get it, but each kid is different in how long it's going to take," she said.

She says having students coming in who have older siblings or parents who were in the band is always nice. But students who may not come from a musical background can still succeed in band. It all depends on motivation, she said.

"Sometimes it's nice because the older brothers or sisters, or the mom and dad will help them," Salinas said. "And I think that helps keep them motivated, because they know that someone at home cares and is happy about them playing that instrument. I think that when they get more attention at home, that helps them do better. We also have a lot of students without band backgrounds that do great, too."