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Halftime Heroes: Tradition big part of Gainesville High School band
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Gainesville High School trombonist Quinn Stanley, 17, performs a solo during a halftime show at West Hall High School on Aug. 19. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville High School is turning 125 years old, but at nearly 82, the school’s band is hardly a spring chicken.

“That’s more (years) than most anywhere in the state,” band director Larry Miller said. “And we talk about that legacy, that tradition.”

So, the 200 students who hit the field at halftime Friday nights in the fall know they’re marching
in the same footsteps of generations behind them.

That’s especially true at GHS’ home confines at City Park.

“When you come to a football game there, it’s a community experience,” Miller said. “We see all kinds of people, from younger children to grandmothers and grandfathers that went to the school.

“They may not have a connection to the school anymore, but they are there celebrating Gainesville, and that’s special.”

Students this year are performing “Beatlemania,” a collection of Beatles tunes, which was no random pick.

“We try to find what works for us in a competition and what’s enjoyable to a Friday night fan at a football game,” Miller said.

Getting into competitive shape takes hard work, and band students have been pulling long practices in what has been 90-degree weather at the practice field behind GHS — just above where the football team is readying in full gear.

Striving to get better is no problem for Blake Rogers, a senior trumpet player.

“I’m really into music and making music,” he said.

It’s the same with Quinn Stanley, a senior trombone player, who says “marching band aspect isn’t just about music — it’s the idea of a show.”

Getting through a day of classes on Fridays can be difficult as students are eager for game time.

“You’re just ready to get out of school so you can get to the game,” Stanley said. “It’s like your mind isn’t really there … because (the game’s) what you’re thinking about the whole day.”

Alejandra Luis, a junior clarinet player, said Friday nights put the band on a big stage.

“You finally get to show other people what you’ve worked so hard to do every day,” she said. “It’s fun to show other schools what we’re really a part of.”

The band has three drum majors — Daniela Olalde, Paola Avila and Sara Azpeitia.

“We’re little Millers,” Olalde said.

In addition to the halftime show, the band plays in the stands during the games.

“It’s about getting the crowd pumped up,” Olalde said. “Gainesville’s not too small but not
too big — it’s really family-oriented. Most of the people in the stands are our families, our friends.”

At one point during the 90-minute practice Tuesday, band members suddenly sprang off the field, down the steep hill toward the football field and then back up to the band field.

Azpeitia offered a quick explanation.

“We probably weren’t in set at the right time, and when that happens, you usually have to run the hill,” she said.

From a tall tower overlooking the field, Miller is quick to correct students when something falls short of expectations.

“It’s shocking to me you can’t make these adjustments,” he said at one obviously displeased point. “Do it wrong and you’re going to run.”

“This is what we preach to them: Anything that is worthwhile, you have to sacrifice for it,” Miller said afterward. “They sacrifice time over the summer, they sacrifice sweat.

“Music is a discipline. It requires focus, effort and practice.”

And there are rewards, such as last week, when the band picked up a big recognition at a competition.

“At this time of the year, they start to see the payoff for (the hard work),” Miller said.

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