ROCK SPRINGS — A crowning event that indicates how far the Rock Springs High School pep band has come is reflected in a hashtag that suggests the program’s rise.
At halftime of Friday’s football game, students will showcase a live march, the first seen in a RSHS home-opening football game in years. Yondu, Gamora and Star-Lord, characters from the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and the band will entertain with a couple of related songs complete with their iconic arrow, sword and orb, respectively. The actors — drum majors T.J. Davis, Alyssa Jordan and Ian Anderson, respectively — are among the seniors who have witnessed the transformation of the program under Brian Redmond’s tutelage.
That rise has included back-to-back superior ratings in Redmond’s four years. Even with recent accomplishments, senior Alicia Stevens said this year’s band is ahead of schedule compared to past groups.
Stevens noted the achievement of doing a live march in the very first home game. The performance comes seven days into the season since the Tigers played a road game last week, but Wyoming high school bands don’t travel with their teams.
The first two superior bands had hashtags: #thisistheyear and #refusetoyield. The first was picked after the band had come just short of being superior the prior year. The second followed after the musicians didn’t want to falter from the success the previous year despite losing many seniors. To stress unity in a quest for three-peat, the hashtag returned this year as #wearegroot, a play on a line from the first “Guardians” movie that comments on the connectivity of the heroes.
And, yes, that has a lot to do with the theme of the band’s breakthrough performance Friday. It comes after five consecutive appearances at state, including four under Redmond. Prior to 2012, the program never made it, Redmond said.
RSHS Principal Annie Fletcher said Redmond transformed “a program that had been through rough times.” She said everything Redmond does is guided by his “passion for students and his passion for music.”
When it comes to Redmond being at the helm of the program’s turnaround, Fletcher’s also said:
“We … have been lucky and blessed to have him.”
“From the moment he walked in the door, he has been a catalyst for change.”
“He gives so much of his own time … here’s here late at night.”
“He’s done everything a school could ask and then more.”
The band instructor has also been recognized for his efforts. Redmond was last school year’s Rock Springs High School teacher of the year.
Davis and Stevens, who are both headed to the National Association for Music Education competition, and Redmond — talked about a key factor to the fast start. They all said students showed up to the annual three-day freshman and leadership camp in early August more than in the past. Redmond and Stevens also noted commitment at “All Call,” the annual band camp than ran Aug. 7-11 this year.
“They came in ready to go,” Davis said.
Besides the home-opener marching, the fruits of being further ahead were on display last week. On Thursday, Aug. 24 the band completed its music run-through a half-hour before the weekly on-field practice session was supposed to be completed, Davis said. Redmond pointed out the early start time helped, with students practicing their instruments earlier in the summer. In recent school years Rock Springs started classes after Labor Day.
Redmond would love a three-peat because it could spark an entirely new mindset among students.
“(Freshmen) would only know top-level performances,” said Redmond, a 13-year band director.
He’s a frequent tweeter about guiding student excellence and said a main challenge to his job is ensuring that he can get 130 band members, with parents and peers, on board.
At the first three home football games, a feature song from the “Guardians” soundtrack will be led by each of the band majors, culminating in a combination of all three for the final contest. The senior leaders are already getting into character.
Davis talked about picking skin off his back with a stick and eating it.
“It seems like something (Yondu) would do,” Davis said with a half smile.
And a theme will accompany the Friday opener that will break from band performance tradition.
“I checked about that specifically,” Redmond said. “There’s nothing that says you can’t do it.”