The Mighty Cardinal Band traveled to San Antonio earlier this week to compete in the 2018 UIL 4A State Marching Contest, where the band’s competition show “The Colony” qualified for the state finals and won sixth place overall.
The Melissa High School band last appeared at state in 2014, but did not advance past the preliminary round. This year’s win marks the first time in school history that the Mighty Cardinal Band has not only advanced to the UIL 4A state finals, but also placed in the top six out of 10 finalists.
Senior drum majors Oscar Villegas and Rodneigh Farrow lead the marching band, along with senior musicians Tyler Wilson, on trumpet, and Jasper Murphy, on clarinet. The show also featured senior soloist Yadira Valdez.
Jerry Whorton, Director of Bands at Melissa Schools, works alongside Aaron Dugger, Associate Director of Bands with assistance from David Landry, Assistant Director of Bands.
Matthew Filosa directs percussion studies, while Taylor Tucker directs the colorguard. Technicians include Justin Madrid, Matthew Malone, Andrew Cory, and Paul Bussert. Stacey Piyakhun serves as the woodwind consultant.
Collin Caldwell, percussion captain in the Mighty Cardinal Band, initially joined the Melissa band program as a sixth grade student at Melissa Middle School.
Two years later, in 2014, Caldwell was one of five eighth grade students who competed with the high school band at state.
This year, as a senior, Caldwell once again became part of a state-qualifying Melissa band despite his initial doubts that they’d make it that far.
“It’s the smallest drum line we’ve ever had and it’s one of the smaller bands in the past few years. I wasn’t too sure about the show design – it was kind of whacky – but it got really good. I think the directors are kind of the main cause of all of this.” – Collin Caldwell, Percussion Captain
With two state appearances on his résumé, Caldwell will graduate from Melissa High School in the spring. He plans to study music education and performance, possibly at Baylor University.
Aaron Dugger, Associate Director of Bands, was instrumental in the production design process for “The Colony”. Planning began in the fall of 2017; at that time, Dugger presented the idea of an ant-themed show to the band staff.
“I’ve always wanted to do a show about ants – I thought it would be funny and I knew the kids would enjoy it. Our main goal this year was to make it a show that the kids were going to have fun with.” – Aaron Dugger, Associate Director of Bands
Dugger says that production design for a UIL marching competition can go one of two ways: deciding on a piece of music and building around that, or coming up with a visual idea then finding music that fits the concept.
“We threw out a bunch of ideas. The staff had a whole bunch of different concepts that ants would do, and then we collaborated and found music that would fit those ideas.”
Dugger moved into the role of associate band director this summer, after serving for two years at Melissa Middle School as the assistant band director.
The Mighty Cardinal Band is considered a “young band” this year, with 54 freshmen. At the middle school, Dugger spent the last two years working with all of this year’s freshman and sophomore musicians.
“I think the most exciting thing for me is that the freshmen and sophomores were all my students at the middle school. I’ve gotten to see them from the time I started teaching them two years ago, see them grow, and experience this with them.”
Leading up to the 2018 UIL competition season, the band faced a plethora of weather challenges, which led to the cancellation of scheduled shows that would have served as key practice performances. As a result, the staff ended up creating practice opportunities for the band through free community shows.
“We knew we needed to find ways to supplement the performances we had lost, so a lot of the community things came from that,” Dugger said. “We also knew that, this year especially, the community really stepped up and our parents stepped up to help us get this on the field, with all of the props and all of the working parts that went into it. We wanted to make sure we were giving as many chances for them to come see us, as our way to thank the community and show our support for them supporting us.”
Dugger shared a message of gratitude to all those involved in making the 2018 competition season a historic one.
“Thank you, everyone, for the support that you’ve given us this year. It’s been awesome. From the administration to the parents, the community – we couldn’t have done it without you.”
Maddie Coe, Community Relations