Band misses state contest by one place

The Journey band show ends at Area competition, but directors confident with team building progress

Silence fills the Ratliff Stadium on Oct. 30 as the El Dorado Marching Band awaits their Area 5A Marching Band contest results.

It was so quiet that the sound of audience members rummaging through their kettle corn bags could be heard from all four corners of the arena. Band members held each other’s arms tighter, their palms getting sweatier.  

Before anyone knew it, the announcer was onto the fourth-place band. Then there was a long pause. The next words that came out of the intercom would decide the fate of the El Dorado Marching Band and their 2021 show “The Journey.” There was only one spot left for them to make history as a state-qualifying band, something El Dorado had never done before. And then the words, “Bel Air High School” rung out over the intercom, solidifying the Highlanders as the fifth and final band to make it to state. The El Dorado Band members’ hearts collectively sank as their hard work from the last five months of marching season would not be repaid by making history as they had hoped. However, band director Carl Ortega knew there was some light to this loss.

 “We had a great performance and I am happy with the outcome. A number does not define the amount of progress and work you have put into this season. This band is successful because our goals were not to make state, but to build the program up again; state was just a side project. I am extremely proud of you all,” Ortega said. 

As the band heard the news, assistant director Cesar Hinojos turned to his band with puffy eyes and mumbled “so close” and turned back around. Despite feeling the devastation after that announcement, Hinojos couldn’t help but feel proud of his students who had worked hard every moment of the season.

“I am so proud. What happened at Odessa was like that proud dad moment, as cheesy as that sounds. The Journey has now ended, and we just have to pick up where we left and keep going. I am so excited for what’s to come,” Hinojos said. 

The band’s blues quickly shifted to anger as they found out they got 6th place and would not advance because of a single judge. All of the judges placed the band in 3rd place except for one judge who placed the band in 9th place, resulting in the final placement of 6th. This realization overwhelmed senior band president, Brandon Smithson.

“Honestly, I was bawling. I was like, crying so much. We are all just kind of there, in those moments together, like, not exactly crying because we didn’t make it to state, but because we were so close to making it to our goal,” Smithson said. “It was really nice to see that everyone appreciates band and came to love it like how I do.” 

That night impacted the band’s legacy. Though they did not make it to state the way that they had hoped, the experience made them a stronger and more united band, according to assistant band director Anthony Yrigoyen.

“No matter what happened in our ability to qualify or not, we were still resilient and know that we accomplished the goal of performing this show. We had a tight-knit family that was willing to work hard and get the job done, no matter what. Building the team was the foundation of where we are heading, so I definitely think that our progress has been exponential this year. I really do think we are going to have great results in the future,” Yrigoyen said. 

Band director Carl Ortega holds up the area finalist trophy in the band room. (Photo by Leeann Mclemore)
Band assistant director Cesar Hinojos directs rehearsal in the band room. (Photo by Leeann Mclemore)
Senior drum major Alanni Alvarez directs the band during a pre-game performance at Bel Air High School on Nov. 5. (Photo by Brenden Malacara)
The band performs at half-time at the football game against Chapin High School on Oct. 28. (Photo by Gael Araiza)