“Congratulations to the Best Band in Texas!” says the hand-scrawled sign on the door to the band hall. The mimeographed letter posted with the practice schedule is similarly upbeat: “ Get involved. You are the Golden Eagle Band, the finest that there is.” This Richardson High School band really is one of the top bands in the state, and it’s especially strong in the music department. Last summer it won the Class AAAAA Honor Band competition, which is a concert category judged on the basis of tape recordings. But can it march as well as it plays? To be the best, you have to do both. Anyway, the kids who come shuffling in on this early morning in late summer don’t much look like champions. They look like raw recruits, some sitting timidly in the corner, others horsing around so as not to betray their anxiety.
This is a meeting of the 64 sophomores, the latest additions to the band. As they assemble, the man in authority takes the floor. “You know me,” he says “You’ll get to know me better.” He is Scott Taylor, Richardson High’s band director. At 35, he looks and acts like Baretta, the television cop, but he has a wider face and a South Texas accent.
“We’re here to learn to be friends and to excel,” he goes on. “We’re not here to humiliate you. There are times when you will feel bad, embarrassed. It’s not intentional and we’ve all been through it. It’s short-lived. On September third you are going to have to set foot out there on that football field and perform. You have to be aggressive if you want to succeed.”
The Richardson High School band has had notable success in playing and marching, but that does not make it particularly unusual. Texas bands are the finest in the country—the three dozen or so best high school bands in the state could be matched by perhaps only a dozen others throughout America. Every fall, thanks to God, 3,500 band directors, and 350,000 indefatigable band members, the show resumes all over Texas. From Monahans to Houston, Amarillo to Brownsville, and points between and beyond, that show is apt to