The high-pitched ding-ding-ding of the metronome echoed throughout the marching band practice area at Victoria West High School this week as students stepped forward and backward several times.

The 180 members of the Band of Warriors counted the eight-count sequence out loud several times, ending with the saying “toe-heel-close.”

“I know you’re used to doing something different – embrace the change,” new Director of Bands Shaka Hawkins said Tuesday morning.

“Yes sir,” the band replied.

The group began learning marching band fundamentals during the weeklong band camp this week, kicking off the state competition season. This is the band’s first year with a new director.

Hawkins, 39, comes from Palmview High School in Mission. Before teaching in the Rio Grande Valley, Hawkins taught at Shelbyville High School in Shelbyville, a town in east Texas.

The Shelbyville band has competed at the state level in the past, and Hawkins believes he sees a state contender in the musicians at West. The school has not yet competed at the state level.

“Our main goal is to create better musicians. The program here has been pretty strong – the staff will provide them the tools to get the students to that (state) level,” Hawkins said.

The marching show this year is titled “You Are.” The three-part music show is about one’s journey to become the person they want to be, Hawkins said. The show will include music by Imogen Heap; a ballad version of the song “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars; and symphony music by composer Samuel Barber.

“The music is fast-paced and sounds like you’re in a race,” Hawkins said. “At the very end ... there’s a glorious ending.”

The band plans to have colorful props and visuals as well as body movement by band members for the show, he said.

Hawkins has made small changes to the program, he said, such as marching technique and the way the musicians will hold their instruments.

“I’m not trying to come in and recreate the wheel. I’m trying to do things that are a little different that will push the program forward,” he said.

Senior Sarah Saenz said the group is adjusting well to the new director.

“It’s different, but we are embracing the change with Mr. Hawkins because we want to get to the next level,” the 17-year-old said.

Sarah said she has waited her whole high school career for the chance to compete at the state level. She is excited to see what other schools in the division have prepared for competition this year, and she also looks forward to performing a Bruno Mars song.

“We don’t give up, and we fight for what we want,” she said.

Color guard captain Aaliyah Allen said new members of the guard are learning how to march as well. The color guard marches differently from the marching band, she said, but guard members still get judged on style, consistency and synchronization, too.

The guard is also working on performance presentation and props, such as flags and rifles.

“The color guard adds to the story of the show. The band plays the music and the guard brings more color to the overall presentation,” Aaliyah, 17, said.

Freshman Amarion Scott is adjusting this summer to play the mellophone, or the marching band version of the French horn. The two instruments are built differently, so learning the mellophone has been a challenge, he said.

He welcomes the challenge, though, because there is a part of the show that features the mellophone section, Amarion said.

“I’m nervous, but I’m ready for it all,” Amarion, 13, said. “I feel like if we really work hard, we can achieve a lot together.”

Amber Aldaco reports on education for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at aaldaco@vicad.com or 361-580-6303.

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Education Reporter

Amber Aldaco is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She's covered various events in the Crossroads including a zoo rescue, a biker funeral and a state meeting with the governor. She enjoys singing with her significant other.

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