WHO: The good people of Andrews; their high school marching band; and their neighbors from 33 schools from as far as one hundred miles away.
WHAT: A cathartic rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock” that embodies the spirit of community out in West Texas.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: Just before Thanksgiving, tragedy struck Andrews High School’s marching band while the group was on its way to the school’s football playoff game against Springtown. The bus collided with a pickup truck driving the wrong way on Interstate 20 in Big Spring, about forty miles northeast of Midland. The resulting accident killed the truck’s driver, bus driver Marc Boswell, and band director Darin Johns. Fourteen people were injured, thirteen of them students. The crash rocked Andrews, a city of 14,000, and understandably put one of its traditions—the annual Christmas parade—into question. Until the neighboring communities around West Texas stepped in to help.
Chris Wheeler, assistant manager at Lubbock’s Tarpley Music, which provides equipment to school bands across West Texas, spoke with band staff from Andrews and learned that because some of the band members had lost their instruments to damage from the crash, the group might not be able to march in this year’s December 3 parade. As the Washington Post reported, Wheeler called other band directors to ask for help. Could they share their extra instruments?
As most Texans know, West Texas is a large region full of far-flung towns—from Andrews, you have to drive thirty miles in any direction before you’ll hit another city—and the regional band directors Wheeler reached out to were even farther out than that, some from as far as one hundred miles away. The response was an overwhelming yes. In addition to lending spare instruments (Seminole High sent a trailer full), band directors from 33 schools decided to bring, well, more or less their entire ensembles.
“I told them we’d take care of the planning and all they had to do was show up,” Wheeler told the Post. The other bands all learned “Jingle Bell Rock,” and the parade route—which was expanded twice to fit all of the participants—became home to a 1,400-piece marching band, playing in unison for one of their own.
What happened on the road in Big Spring is a tragedy, and healing from it will take time. But Andrews received one heck of a show of support in that healing process last Friday night, as part of a community that may be far-flung, but remains close-knit all the same.