HARLINGEN — They sat poised with their shiny saxophones, eyes focused on the notes of “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”
The young musicians in the Vela Middle School Jazz Band had assembled for another day of band camp, something they probably wondered if they’d experience anytime soon.
But the Harlingen school district has instituted strict safety measures to protect students, teachers and staff. These measures have made it safe to open campuses not only for band camp but also summer school.
Harlingen High School Marching Band and the Memorial Middle School Orchestra have also been having their camps.
“They’re excited to come and start learning again in person,” said Michael Ramirez, orchestra director at Memorial. He’s been working with three young violin players.
“Basically, all of the things they need to learn for the next school year is what we are starting to cover now,” Ramirez said. “It’s been going really well. The kids are doing really, really good. They’re following all of the precautions that we have. They’re excited to learn.”
Back at Vela, the kids really seemed to get in the mood of their playing. The metronome went “Tok! Tok! Tok! Tok!” as Erika Uribe, associate band director, called out, “Measure two, measure two, a one, a two!” And the six saxophones, all evenly spaced with their players, fused their sounds into a nicely textured whole. An excited, passionate and playful energy filled the room as the musicians blew into the mouthpieces.
“I think it’s a smart idea to get us all together here so that we could practice,” said Robert Jacob Villarreal, 13, an eighth grader at Vela who plays tenor sax.
The camp has been a welcome relief from the lockdown.
“It’s been pretty boring,” Robert said. “There’s not that much stuff to do. It’s pretty fun that we have this to go to every morning.”
Fellow jazz band member Haiden Zamora, 12, couldn’t agree more.
“I enjoy the band camp because before we didn’t get to see people,” said Haiden, an eighth grader who also plays tenor sax.
“Before we didn’t get to see people, we had to stay indoors,” she said. “Now we finally get to be near people.”
More than 100 Cardinal band members have been showing up for band camp at Harlingen High School, and it’s been going great, said Band Director Maria Coronado.
“We probably had about 120 for the face to face,” she said, adding that more logged in for virtual time.
“It went fantastic,” Coronado said. “They did a great job. I was real excited that they were able to attend. They did a great job of following all the safety precautions that we had set for them. And it was still a really good learning environment for them.”
Camryn Hale, 17, was really excited when she was named drum major for the 2020-21 school year. When the pandemic hit, she wondered if she’d ever get to serve. Band camp definitely brought hope.
“It feels really good because I’ve spent the last three years serving the band and participating to the best of my ability,” she said. “Just to finally be able to have something to show for it and be able to go through with it is really nice.”