Big 7 Bands receive superior ratings at 80th Pigskin Jubilee
At the 80th Annual Pigskin Jubilee, ten of the Rio Grande Valley’s best high school marching bands earned division 1 ratings after displaying their skills Saturday night in front of an ecstatic crowd of supporters at La Joya ISD Pack Stadium. The West Zone Pigskin showcase included performances from Rio Grande City CISD, Mission CISD, Sharyland ISD and La Joya ISD. Every program’s discipline in their craft and steadfast commitment to one another were fully displayed with each progressive note and choreographed step. Months of marching practice, ensemble rehearsals, camps, and extended curating, editing, and sightreading hours culminated in one fifteen-minute performance to achieve one standard: Superior.
The inaugural Pigskin Jubilee occurred in 1940 at Harlingen High School. It was created for local RGV bands to showcase their marching and musical skills to the community. Its name, “Pigskin,” refers to an old tradition where participant schools would honor their football programs, including district honorees, coaches, and supporters at the event. The Jubilee has persisted for eight decades, with notable cancellations during World War 2 in 1942, 1943, and 1944. Eventually, Pigskin was placed under the umbrella of the University Interscholastic Leagues (UIL) state marching competition as a Regional Qualifying event. Because of these factors, Pigskin is one of the most prestigious and electrifying competitions in the RGV for all who participate.
“It really means a lot to me. Especially since it’s my senior year. We did amazing. We really did. I could see the passion and focus in everyone’s eyes. And we just really went to get it. During warmup, you could feel the energy, and it just kept building until we could finally perform and display it in front of everyone. It was just a fantastic feeling,” Bethany Arista, La Joya Palmview Head Drum Major, said.
“When you play on that field…. you feel something. We know that we’re giving it our all. We can feel the music. It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s a great feeling,” Erick Castañon, La Joya Juarez-Lincoln Drum Major, said.
The process of getting to Pigskin takes work. It requires collaboration from multiple fine arts programs, musical selections, endless practice hours, and laser focus. Many schools employ composers and arrangers, designers, and project leaders to tighten up their performances. Sometimes, the most challenging part is choosing the best ideas.
“We have program coordinators and music arrangers who are all involved in the process. A lot of times, everyone has their own opinions, but at the end of the day, as the head band director, I say, “This is my favorite idea. This is what we’re going with.” We also get input from the students. I have a group of student leaders, and I show them the music, I show them the concept and tell them what we’re trying to do and base it off their reactions or first impressions,” Guillermo De la Cruz, Mission Veterans Memorial Head Band director, said.
Despite the tireless preparation, sometimes a last-second pivot or mistake hardens resolve and tests a band’s ability to adapt and overcome. That adaptation, or lack thereof, could be the difference between a good rating, a bad rating, or potential disqualification.
“We turned the corner around the gate and realized our time had started on us. Normally, we have this big procession set up. So, we went sprinting onto the field within almost a minute of a dq. So we don’t know what happened, but we probably had the best show of the year. A bunch of adrenaline kicked in, the focus kicked in, and we had a really solid show. We talk about a lot of different scenarios and what can happen. How you handle those situations in the clutch is how champions are made,” Marc Perea, Sharyland High School band director said.
Yet, no matter the obstacles, the goals remain the same. Every director, student leader, dancer, drill team member, instrumentalist, and fan knows that sacrificing for those few minutes is all that matters. Not because winning is so important, but because finishing is. Pigskin’s finality is its charm.
“All these experiences are culminating and coming back to me. I can’t be more thankful for what the band has given me. The thrill of performing and the energy and excitement of the band. It’s crazy. It’s emotional,” Daniel Ramirez, Sharyland Pioneer Drum Major, said.
Pigskin Jubilee is a seismic moment in the life of high school musicians who join the band because it reflects the community and the powerful love that holds it together. Hearing “Division 1” at night’s end is just the cherry on top. As she held back tears, fearful that her team would suffer for what she felt was a mishap, junior and Sharyland High School Drum Major Madison Hernandez summed up the feeling perfectly:
“I’ve been in this program since 6th grade. And I’ve been a drum major since my sophomore year. Knowing that this band is my band and that I have the opportunity to be in this role for this year and next year is really important to me. I’ve grown so much through band and without it, I don’t think I would be the same person. So that’s why this program and performance are so special to all of us. That’s why we keep doing it. Because of the friendships that we make, because of how we see ourselves grow.”
The following schools achieved a rating of Division 1 and will advance to their respective Area meets for an opportunity to qualify for state:
La Grulla, La Joya Palmview High School, Roma High School, Sharyland Pioneer High School, Mission Veterans Memorial High School, La Joya Juarez-Lincoln High School, Rio Grande City High School, Sharyland High School, Mission High School, La Joya High School.
Area Competition Location: 5A Area G
La Joya ISD Pack Stadium – La Joya, TX – October 28