Just about the time the sun burned off any memory of morning cool, the high school band members lined up and marched together arm and arm across the pavement.
The Harker Heights High School Red Brigade Band members, like marching bands across the Killeen area and beyond, are about two weeks into practice and they are feeling the sweet, nervous tension of pending performance.
With David Norris, Harker Heights band director, giving instruction, the 145-student band lined up again and marched across the paved pad behind the school, working to get every line straight.
“Band students are a different kind of kid,” Norris, a 25-year band educator said. “Right off the bat, they sign up for a shorter summer. They’ve been at it since the first of August.”
Marching contests and football halftime shows await, but first the Red Brigade Band has its annual opener at Spirit Spectacular, slated for 8 p.m. Aug. 23 at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen.
Now a 34-year tradition, Spirit Spectacular features the four Killeen Independent School District high school bands and their dance teams and color guards in a showcase that is more about spirit than competition.
Ellison High School is the host and organizer of the event. Tickets are $6 and proceeds are shared among the four band programs.
“Spirit Spectacular is a driving force for the summer,” Norris said. “It’s a strong motivator. We can compare and contrast where we are compared to the other bands. It’s a good reference point that helps us push through the season.”
Harker Heights High School seniors Conner White and Solomon Kung will lead the band on the field as student drum majors.
“It’s nerve racking at first, but it’s fun. I like Spirit Spectacular,” White said. “You get to see all the freshmen nervous and help them calm their nerves.”
The pair confirmed the band practices, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with a one-hour break make for a challenging end of the summer. The two leaders said they would not have it any other way.
“It’s a special feeling,” Kung said. “We feel like we’ve accomplished something. It makes me feel good about myself.”
White said the sense of responsibility is strong and it will hit him anew when he takes to the field next week.
“It’s a learning experience,” White said. “We teach the fundamentals of marching, how to read drill charts and we exercise and work to put the show together.”
Kung said the tradition gives them a sneak peek at area bands.
“We see all four high schools and what they have done this summer. All the band parents are there and they are excited. We want to be competitive with the other bands.”
The theme of the Harker Heights show this year, “The Great American Pastime,” is baseball.
Norris appreciates the challenge of bringing baseball to a football field.
Using original musical work of Key Poulan, the band will perform to music that is deeply familiar — elements of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” for example.
“There’s a lot of motion,” Norris said. “Lots of movement, traditional sets and curves. We try to make some pictures of baseball.”
To help drive home the theme, band members traveled to Round Rock this week, took in a Round Rock Express game and hit the stadium pool. The next morning, they were up early marching again.
“These kids work harder than most,” Norris said. “They are dedicated.”