It’s a tuneup, a dress rehearsal and a spirit celebration all rolled into one spectacular evening of performance.

The 36th annual Spirit Spectacular steps off at 8 p.m. Saturday with Killeen ISD’s four high school bands performing one after the other on the Leo Buckley Stadium field.

The longtime, preseason showoff for the bands is also a fundraiser that all four programs share. Tickets are $6 at the gate and available this week at the Killeen Independent School District treasury office at 200 N. W.S. Young Drive. Children younger than 3 get in free.

The Ellison High School band started the event as an ice cream fundraiser for parents. Still sponsored by the Ellison band program, Spirit Spectacular has grown to become a start-of-school tradition the weekend before the first day of school.

From the standpoint of the high school band, color guard and dance team performers, it’s the start of marching season and the end of a grueling four weeks of summer band rehearsals.

The four band programs in KISD are familiar with one another, meeting often in contest and at intradistrict football games.

Spirit Spectacular gives the directors and students a chance to cheer on their peers and also get a glimpse of what the other schools are working on.

Ellison High School’s three drum majors agreed the showcase makes for a special start to a busy, exciting season.

“You get a sense of family and pride,” said Andrea Cruz, one of the three senior drum majors. “We all have a common interest in music, marching and having fun.”

“It’s exciting,” said drum major Audrey Miranda. “I look forward to all of it. This is a great group and we’re ready for the season.”

The Spirit Spectacular ends four weeks of practice for the whole band. Percussionists started a week earlier. Construction at Ellison High School required the band to rehearse two weeks at nearby Liberty Hill Middle School.

“Despite that, we were able to get on the field and learn in a timely manner,” Miranda said.

Band director Jeff Smith agreed that his 158 band students took the displacement in stride and have done a great job learning complicated music and marching in a short period of time.

“It’s a lot of work. They are here at least from 8 to 3 daily and they come back in the evenings twice a week,” he said. “It’s physical work and it’s mental. They are learning to play and to match volume and pitch. They work hard. They’re doing a great job. They are focused.”

The Ellison band will open with a classic band piece called “Emperata,” a rhythmic, stylish piece combining slow and fast music. From there, the Screaming Eagle Band will showcase the Emeralds dance team and end with the school’s traditional tune “The Horse.”

For the drum majors going into their senior years and the directors leading them, the annual start to school and to band season is special.

“It’s a great feeling up on the podium,” said drum major Brittany Barlow. “I feel blessed to get to do this for a second year. We have a powerful show this year.”

“This is a showoff for our summer camps,” Smith said. “There is no competition or rivalry between the bands. We get to enjoy seeing what all the groups have done.”

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