By RICH KEITH, Four Points News
The Texas state-champion Vandegrift marching band dedicated its show this year to the late Viper band student Cale Howard and his mother Peggy Howard of Steiner Ranch, who were tragically killed by a drunk driver on Dec. 27. The show is called Joy of Life.
Well before the crash occurred, the VHS band directors and Vision Dance Company began designing this year’s show. Originally the show was to be a dramatic, almost dark and edgy production with music and costumes to match.
But after the accident which took the life of one of the band’s most loved members, the directors began to wonder how the show could be modified. Ultimately they scrapped the entire score and visuals completely and went in a direction of light and color, featuring sunrises, sunsets, flowers and even butterflies. “The four parts of our show represent beauty, excitement, love and peace,” said Mike Howard, director of bands.
The band welcomes the community to come to their final home performance on Wednesday to celebrate the 2014 marching show at 7 p.m. at Ed Monroe Stadium at VHS 9500 McNeil Drive Austin, TX 78750.
The Joy of Life show features the music of Aaron Copeland including “Promise of Living,” Symphony No. 3, “Dance Panels,” “Down a Country Road” and “Happy Ending” from the Red Pony.
Howard said the band directors turned the tragedy into a teaching moment for the 247 students. “We had a conversation with the students about how we can choose to respond to life’s challenges,” Howard said. “They’ve been as positive as any group I’ve seen,” he said.
Once the change was made to the program, “The students embraced it immediately,” Howard said, noting the older students especially were on board quickly.
Cale, a baritone saxophone player, will be remembered always for his high spirits and student leadership. Honored posthumously during the band’s spring banquet in May 2014, Cale was given the Second to None Award. Also in May, the band’s top monetary scholarship award for seniors was renamed the Cale Howard music scholarship.
Based upon competition results, the judges agree with the changes made to the program. In October Vandegrift finished in first place at the Vista Ridge Marching Festival, sweeping all award categories. VHS has won the contest every year since it was launched in 2010.
On Halloween and on Nov. 1 the band will compete in the prestigious Bands of America Super-Regionals marching contest in the Alamodome in San Antonio. There they will go up against 57 bands from all over Texas and nearby states. They recently took 5th place in the Regionals in October.
“This will be a tough competition against several Grand National Finalists and Super Regional Finalists from past years,” Howard said.
The Viper band and Vision Dance Company is currently ranked Texas state champion out of 250 UIL Class 4A band programs following the last competition held in 2013. There are 247 students in the program, making it by far the largest program on campus.