The Hitchcock High School Band performed Saturday at the UIL Region 13 marching contest in El Campo. The band received a 1st Division rating for its performance and qualified for advancement to the area contest on Saturday in Cuero. The band is under the direction of Kelly Brunson and Assistant Director Fred Otto.

As I write this column, I’m quite taken aback by all that has transpired to get these hardworking students to where they are today.

In 2015, Brunson accepted the position of head band director of Hitchcock High School. Through hard work, dedication, personal sacrifice, a genuine love for music, and most importantly, our children and their success, he has rebuilt an underfunded, struggling band program from the ground up.

The band booster program was re-established as a nonprofit organization in 2015. Our mission is to support the band in every way possible. We asked for instrument donations from the community. We put out donation cans, had bake sales and started an online campaign for help. We did everything we could to help the program succeed.

As a result, our children flourished. Their eyes opened to a whole new level of success that they were never aware existed. They began to take great pride in their performances and to receive exemplary ratings in competition. The community and the school district began to rally around them and to support them even further with new instruments, new uniforms and a refurbished band hall.

In 2016, the band returned to UIL marching for the first time in almost 20 years. They were rewarded for their hard work with 1st Division exemplary ratings.

In 2017, at the height of summer band practice, our community was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Many of our students and their families lost everything due to flooding. The band was unable to meet or practice for over two weeks. When they could return, many were (and still are) displaced from their homes. Despite all of this, they buckled down and went back to work.

Due to their unwillingness to fail, the leadership of the band directors and support of the parents and the district, the band received a 1st Division rating in Saturday’s UIL marching competition, qualifying it to advance and represent the school in the area marching competition this weekend.

As a parent of two band students, I can truly say I’ve never been more proud in my life. Not just of my own children, but of each and every one of these kids that has worked so hard to achieve these accomplishments. The life lessons that our children will take away from this program are invaluable. They now understand that despite your situation, your financial status, unforeseen events, etc., if you remain determined and work hard toward your goals, you can and will succeed.

Michael Stephenson is president of the Hitchcock Band Association.

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(5) comments

Carlos Ponce

Terrific column, Mike! I have worked with the Pride of Bulldog Land Band since 1983 providing video for each director. Traveling with the band I observe and applaud the efforts and hard work put out by each student. Directors Kelly Brunson and Fred Otto are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the program.
Band Association President Michael Stephenson is a Hitchcock High School graduate who served as band drum major in the early 1990s. His son, sophomore Gerald Stephenson is the current drum major.
The current show is called "Dreams of Persia" with a prop backdrop reminiscent of "Aladdin", a great show with three segments.
With each passing year I always wonder how long I can continue climbing atop press boxes to video record especially after a summertime operation. But these kids are worth it. I am amazed of their accomplishments this year considering how many lost their homes and possessions during Harvey.
Great job, kids! Keep up the good work! All of Hitchcock stands with you!

Martin Connor

Great article Mike. It's been so awesome to see the band improve by leaps and bounds the last few years under the new leadership. The hard work and dedication shows brightly when they are on the field at halftime. Additional thanks needs to go to you and Rachel for much of this. You guys have worked tirelessly to turn the program around. And a special thanks to Mr. Ponce for his commitment to not just the band, but to all he does for the community and school. Keep up the good work as he sky's the limit for these young people.

Carlos Ponce

Thank you, Martin!

Carlos Ponce

Update: In Area E competition the Pride of Bulldog Land Band made the FINALS!
Second performance was at 9pm Saturday evening in Cuero. A fantastic performance but the band will not go to state competition in San Antonio this year.
Great job from the students, Drum Major Gerald Stephenson, band directors Kelly Brunson and Fred Otto. Special thanks to the band parents and chaperones who helped especially with the 12 foot props in the high wind.Cold weather and strong winds did not keep this band from doing an excellent job! We are proud of you!!!

Michael Stephenson

Thanks so much, Mr. Ponce for all that you do.

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