From Friday Night Lights to UT Alumni Band

This morning, I pulled out my piccolo and nervously fingered through some scales. I’ve laid out my clothes for this evening, and I’m looking forward to seeing my friends at practice.  Done a bit of bitching about how hot rehearsal will be.

And when The University of Texas Longhorn Alumni Band takes the field this evening, I’ll have butterflies in the pit of my stomach. What if I’m a line leader and I miss a turn? Will I be able to play and march all the music? What if the camera catches me as I do something stupid, like drop my music folder or get out of line?

The Longhorn Alumni Band view as we wait for the second quarter to end. Alumni Band wears orange polyester vest and can number as much as 500 in attendance. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

Once a band nerd, always a band nerd.

Band Brings Out the Best of Small Town Texas

Carlisle Indians 2016 homecoming game
Carlisle ISD is a 2A district, about 30 minutes from Tyler, Texas. This year, the Indians are undefeated. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of watching the Carlisle ISD Indian band perform at their homecoming game. Oh, yes, there was a game–the Indians are currently undefeated and playing some awesome football–but I was there to hear the music and watch the marching.

High school football fans at Carlisle ISD in Texas.
Carlisle ISD home stands, eagerly awaiting the 2016 homecoming game. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

Having grown up in Texas and drunk from the fountain of Friday Night Lights Kool-Aid at an early age, small town games like this one in Henderson embody all the wonderful things about band programs. Entire families show up; the elementary, middle, and high school campuses are within walking distance of each other and the stadium. Cheering fans are equally supportive of kids in the band and boys on the gridiron. Tiny kids dance enthusiastically to stand tunes and help conduct. Cheerleaders look to the percussion to supply that perfect cadence for favorite routines. What would the homecoming court presentation be without the dulcet strains of “Wind Beneath My Wings” playing on loop as the sun sets in a soft rosy gold sky?

Carlisle ISD homecoming court presentation at 2016 homecoming.
Students in 2A Carlisle Indian band provide background music for homecoming’s pregame festivities. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

That Carlisle Indian game buzzed with alumni because, in small town Texas, homecoming really is just that. Grown-ups stopped band directors to say, “Hey, Miss–how are you doing?” and give a brief summary of recent accomplishments.

It’s a long journey from those first band classes in middle school to 30+ years of university alumni band participation. Whether stepping out before a crowd of 100,000 for an ESPN halftime broadcast or taking the home field as part of a 100-member ensemble performing for an intimate crowd of family and friends, that band experience is a wonderful thing.

Carlisle Indians take field at 2016 homecoming game.
It’s the band that plays the fight song and Star Spangled Banner to get the game going. Carlisle Indians take the field at homecoming. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler
Carlisle Indian band performs at 2016 homecoming halftime
Carlisle Indian band performs a military-style marching halftime. The band consistently performs among the best in state UIL marching competitions at their level. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler
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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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