The loudspeaker makes the announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Jackson Field on the campus of Sul Ross State University.” It’s Saturday in Texas and that means college football.
But today, September 20th, among the crowd and the coaches and the football players, a new sound enters the mix. For the first in over 20 years, the Sul Ross State Lobo Marching Band will take the field again, led by Band Director Christopher Dobbins.
“This is a brand new band again,” he says. “This is the first time in 22 years at least we’ve had a marching band, so we’re pretty excited. We’re getting ready to do our first pre-game show.”
There are about 32 students in the band in dark pants and t-shirts. There’s no money for uniforms and besides, they need money for more important things, like more instruments. But spirits are high and the band is pumped for the first home game of the season.
Craig Salvador, who plays tuba, says his high school band was very competitive.
“My high school band, I think we marched with 80 or 90 people; two or three times the size of this,” he says. “But it’s a lot more fun here. A lot more laid back.”
His bandmate Bowie Adams plays baritone sax. He says, “it’s been fast and furious. We started three weeks ago and we’ve had very little time to prepare but we’re going to kill it. We’re going to do good.”
If you’re a former band member, band snob, or band nerd, the Lobo band might sound a bit green. But it’s important to remember for a large portion of the Sul Ross student population didn’t come from big football towns. Many, like the kids I talked to from Presidio, Texas, didn’t have football teams at all, let alone marching bands. This All-American, Friday Night Lights tradition that’s new to some along the border.
Junior Elian Delgado is from Acuna Cohilia in Mexico.
“It’s all exciting,” she says. “This is the first time I see a marching band and the whole experience, I guess.”
Assistant Band Director Heather Ainsworth-Dobbins is excited for the future outlook of the program.
“Just in this past year with the creation of the marching band we’ve doubled the band program. It’s really helping to recruit, not only to the band program, but music majors as well,” she says. “We’re creating new traditions and the students are really getting into it.”
Jibri Huery, cornerback for the Lobo football team says games with marching bands just have more energy.
“They get it amped. They get everybody in to it. You get in to it. The players get in to it. The atmosphere just turns up,” he says.
After the big halftime show, Director Christopher Dobbins is almost breathless.
“We’re looking forward to more to come,” he says.
Then, almost as if on cue, thunder starts followed by lightning. A coach explains the game will be delayed, which means the band will be delayed too.
But after 22 years, what’s another hour?