Sound of Swarm snags state silver

By Sam Major
Posted 11/16/23

Mineola High School’s Sound of the Swarm earned silver at the 2023 UIL state marching band contest in San Antonio last Wednesday in their fifth consecutive trip to state finals.

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Sound of Swarm snags state silver


Mineola High School’s Sound of the Swarm earned silver at the 2023 UIL state marching band contest in San Antonio last Wednesday in their fifth consecutive trip to state finals.

The traffic sign outside Meredith Memorial Stadium, where it all started back during the heat of summer band practice, summarized it well Friday evening, “Sound of the Swarm. Five-time state medalist. Pride of Mineola,” on repeat.

Mineola band director Jim Best notes the feat is incredible and that his students have started to realize that it is their own achievement, which they earned. He believes that, apart from Whitesboro, Mineola is, “the most consistent band program in the state at that level.”

Whitesboro won the state title in 2013 and ’15, before finishing third to Mineola in 2017, second in ’19 and ’21, then reclaiming first this year.

The two programs will get to compete again sooner than in recent history, as state-qualifying years no longer alternate for marching band, but bands of all classifications now get the chance to advance annually.

Remaining bands in the finals placed as follows: Atlanta 3rd, Holliday 4th, Cameron Yoe 5th, Redwater 6th, Howe 7th, Winnsboro 8th, Clifton 9th and Crane 10th.

Coming off the field in the Alamodome after their finals run, the Mineola marchers were hooting and hollering in excitement, “because they knew that was peak form and they had achieved everything,” per Best, who jokes, “if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing right.”

The emotions felt by the Mineola teenagers (it’s easy to forget that, despite their level of discipline, these are teens – with myriad hormones and still-developing brains in tow) shortly after learning they were second place were stunted by shock, followed by a complicated brew of disappointment tinged with sadness, along with a faint undercurrent of pride perhaps mixed with joy.

Of the Swarm’s 105 band members, two-thirds are freshmen and sophomores, most of whom had not experienced the state contest before, so, “it was a big moment for them, of almost let-down because they felt like they had the responsibility,” of getting another gold medal, shared Best. He surmises their response was, “them just feeling like they had let people down, and we just reassured them in that moment that you have let nobody down, everybody is still incredibly proud of you.”

They were soon given excellent advice by Best, making sure they knew it was OK to feel whatever they felt, reminding them that, “it’s OK to be nervous, it’s OK to be upset, because that means you care.” He emphasized that they could also recognize how they had accomplished something great, only just shy of the ultimate goal of gold.

Mere moments later, he asked if they thought Whitesboro deserved to be applauded for their accomplishment and the group, fronted by their student leaders, walked toward the gold medalists and clapped for them.

Even before that prompting, there were several exchanges between individuals from the top two bands including high-fives, hugs and congratulatory greetings going both ways.

Best feels that was, “confirmation that not only do we have good kids, but they have the right culture going on in the program.”

Whitesboro director Charles Gardner said the first to congratulate him – with a hug – was Jim Best.

That culture has a lot to do with Best’s staff, which he considers the best in the entire state. Being surrounded by incredible people is a huge advantage, especially ones bought in for the long haul that, “see Mineola as the destination, and that’s something that really counts because of the consistency that we have.”

In particular, Dago Gonzalez, the middle school director and brass specialist and Carrie Gonzalez, color guard director and as of this year, woodwind director, have provided consistency and congruency, holding the program together through multiple transitions over the last several years.

Last year, a few months into taking the helm of the Swarm, Best said he was unsure anyone could ever, “understand the importance of what those two have held in the transition,” and he did not have words for what they meant to, “being able to keep this program where it is.” He characterized having the duo as priceless, for which both the district and community are extremely fortunate.

Their star pupils, who accomplish greatness individually, help establish and maintain a culture of excellence, plus that of working on the fundamentals, standards of performing at a high level and making your best better.

The band actively talks about the legacy that graduating seniors leave behind. This seasons’s show entitled “Carry the Torch” was about doing one’s part to pass on something lasting and meaningful, such as a “legacy that has started and will only continue to grow,” according to Best.

With three titles in just five appearances, Mineola is already exceptional. Now perhaps they can look to achieve consistent greatness like Holliday, which has qualified for state across three decades, 16 consecutive times, making 13 finals appearances including a fourth place this year. Or perhaps they could even dream of reaching the heights of Argyle, which has claimed state titles across three different size classifications, and holds a record of eight total golds.

If future Swarm members follow the advice of drum major Mariana Delgadillo to, “be yourself, dedicate yourself to the program and have fun,” they should be set up for success.

Best agrees, since band folks get into it because, “we enjoy it – we enjoy performing, we enjoy playing – and it’s so hard to separate the competitive aspect from that and be able to see it clearly.”

What is clear as a rim shot is that Best is “beyond proud of them for carrying the torch – and they have, fully.”

Mineola High School remains Texas’ reigning concert honor band, and will now get ready for a repeat performance in that capacity at the annual TMEA convention. Best is excited to begin preparations for that concert in February, remarking, “We start that process Monday.”

The beat goes on.