EDITOR’S NOTE: Chip Autry is a senior member of the nationally-recognized Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band. Playing percussion in the drumline, he is chronicling the marching band during the 2015 season in the band’s return to the Texas UIL State Marching Band Competition.

Area Champion.

Advancing on to the State Marching Contest.

That’s what the Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band achieved last Monday, rising above all other opponents to claim a seat right at the top; however, the road to such an honor was a long one, filled with blood, sweat, and a few inches of rain.

Speaking of rain, Waxahachie certainly had its fill leading up all the way to the contest, so much in fact that scheduling changes had to be made. Instead of a usual Saturday competition date, the entire thing was rescheduled to the following Monday in order to avoid finals being rained out. Thanks to that particular development, students had a small of window of time to rush their teachers for work they’d be missing for contest. I had the personal pleasure of missing an entire chapter lecture in my Earth Sciences class, the kind of lesson painfully written down at the time when I should have been asleep instead of cramming for a test.

Come Monday everything had been put into motion starting with a quick hour rehearsal early at about 7:30 in the morning just to work out as many small problems as possible before a massively important performance. Following practice students scrambled to load their instruments onto the new band trailer, then loading themselves onto a fleet of school buses just an hour or so later.

Preliminaries were early for the Waxahachie Band with a performance at 12:45 p.m. and being one of the first few programs to go. Being early is hardly an advantage, with judges more reserved in their willingness to give high scores, it’s a bit of a curse. Pretty much every student knew this going into their performance; however, many also know that there were plenty of more important things to be worrying about than just a ranking. If each marcher out there couldn’t focus on the moment, there wouldn’t be anything else to look forward to. All in all, Waxahachie ended up leaving prelims with a solid and safe performance that although not dazzling in its execution, would be enough.

Or at least, so everyone thought.

Following a meal provided by the boosters and several hours of just sitting in the stands watching other bands perform their shows, the preliminary round finally ended, prompting band members to file out of the stadium back towards Director Rich Armstrong for whatever news he had in store.

2nd.

That was our ranking after preliminaries, and plenty of people were shocked (me included) that we hadn’t managed to claim the top spot after the first round of shows. Among all the hushed whisper and chatter of band members, Mr. Armstrong gave everyone the second big piece of news: we would be performing last. Over anything else, performing last can be an incredibly advantageous way to leave a good impression on both the judges and crowd assuming your band can play well enough to top the others. This was explained to everyone present, and it was made clear that the pressure would be on for the next few hours to make sure Waxahachie would come home nothing short of a winner.

The next few hours, everyone sort of developed an attitude that I can only explain as the kind of thing professionals spend years working to develop. For one night, Waxahachie had to think of itself as the best program at that competition, not out of arrogance, but out of confidence in the ability to perform. At 9:30 p.m. we gave what I think was one of our greatest performances yet, and anxiously awaited Mr. Armstrong in the stands following our show. Having learned we had at least made the top 5, students sat in silence as a lone director strode briskly across an empty football field illuminated by the lights. He crossed over some railings, came up some stairs, looked out at his band for a few seconds, and held up one singular finger.

1st.

It’s the kind of memory I don’t think I’ll soon forget, and the kind of memory I hope can be made in these next few days, as the Waxahachie Band advances onwards to State on Monday.