The Beat Of A New Drum


A MEMORABLE ENDING: Freshman, Kevin Li strikes a final pose at the finale of the Raptor Band marching show. This was the band’s first full run of the show with props and special effects. photo by Kayla Le.

Robby Cole, Staffer

Students in the LASA Raptor marching band spend hours after school preparing their show for competitions. This year, students and fans got to enjoy the marching band’s show “The Manhattan Project.” However, senior Gus Serff-Roberts, the band’s brass captain, explained that there have been a lot of unique challenges this year. 

“This season we’ve had a lot of setbacks,” Serff-Roberts said. “Obviously we had the challenge of a head band director leaving unprompted pretty close to the start of band camp.” 

Brian Mayer, the previous LASA band director, left LASA to direct the Dripping Springs marching band at the end of last year. The previous associate band director, Ponder East, stepped up to fill his role as Head Band Director, and Jesus Torres joined the LASA staff as the new associate band director to lend his expertise. 

According to Serff-Roberts, students found that they had to be more independent after the loss of a director. Serff-Roberts said that he had to take on more responsibilities regarding managing the band this year.

 “Not only my role, but a lot of the leadership roles, have gone up and gotten a little more involved,” Serff-Roberts said. “especially considering that the band director is new here, so he has to settle in the same way all of the other new members do.”

As brass captain, Serff-Roberts helps the entire brass section of the band learn and play songs such as the school fight song at football games to get students and players excited. He also takes on the job of organizing and teaching each brass player on a more personal level than the directors are able to. 

 “I‘m proud of the band as a whole, just able to persevere through a lot of the setbacks that we’ve had,” Serff-Roberts said. “We just gotta roll with the punches sometimes, and they’ve done a great job of that.”

Head Band Director Ponder East has been working at LASA for over a decade, and is no stranger to the marching band process. He stressed how important it is to have a good relationship between both directors and with students but was very pleased with the addition of Torres. 

“With Mr. Torres’s experience level, kids took to him right away,” East said. “He and I got along great and have been getting along really well. I think that we did quite well and that there’s a lot of things that weren’t problems that could have been much bigger problems.”

Some of these problems ranged from technical difficulties to typos on props with periodic elements, but students’ involvement over the season brought success anyway, according to East. He said students largely directed the visual portion of the show with the help of Torres. Student involvement is a huge part of how the band was able to make it past rough patches this season. 

“The feeling at rehearsals was really good,” East said. “We had several fantastic rehearsals. Just the vibe on the field was really focused. It was upbeat. The kids were working hard. They were responding to the instruction and the feedback, and we became a really good band.”

Involvement from students in this year’s show was even more important than in the past, but they were able to step up and accept more than the work required, according to Serff-Roberts. Students took control of designing visuals in addition to their usual jobs on the field.

“As we got further into the season, and it was time to start adding in visual stuff on the field, the students were the ones that came up with it,” East said. “I had one contribution on the very first movement of the show that I came up with, but pretty much everything else that was in the show was either Mr. Torres’s idea or the student leadership.” 

Torres has taught previously at three other high schools and currently serves as artistic director and conductor of Austin’s Cinematic Symphony. He’s no stranger to the learning process in band, but Torres said the strong will of LASA students has continued to impress him. 

“I think a lot of people get dragged to the finish line in other schools,” Torres said. “Here, it was just a matter of giving them the challenge and saying, ‘This is what it’s going to take,’ and then watching the kids answer the call.”