State of the Arts
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That’s true for this year’s Jacksboro High School band and theater students.
But they took the challenges in stride and managed to pull off a year of performance they can be proud of.
“The band’s done a really good job considering everything that’s happened this year,” said Assistant Director William Mosher. “If you put everything into perspective, they had gone into a director change from last year with Mr. Beeson when he left and that was hard on a bunch of them.”
The Purple Pride Band worked through four changes in leadership this school year. Ray Velasquez took over the program after Brian Beeson left the district at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Velasquez had served as assistant band director in JISD for three years. William Mosher was brought on board as assistant director.
Velasquez left the band director position in January for personal reasons according to school officials. He was replaced in the interim by retired band director Eddie Gellner.
Mosher and the students were shocked to learn Mr. Gellner suffered a heart attack and died the Friday of Spring Break.
Then, a retired band director from Seymour, David Akins was called in. The district recently hired a new director, Patrick Flaniken, from Nocona.
In addition to all of the leadership changes, the band was down in numbers. It went from about 45 students the previous year to 34 students.
Despite heading into the year with a few setbacks, the band received Division 2 ratings from each of the judges for the UIL Marching Band contest.
“Division 2 is not bad, by any means, that does suggest there’s room for growth, but that’s still a fairly good showing,” Mosher said.
Band members have seen a lot of success with students participating in district band and region band auditions. Multiple students made district and region band. Two clarinet players and a tuba player went on to compete at the area contest.
“We had two ensembles that did very well at the UIL Solo and Ensemble contest. They received Division 1 ratings and they’re going to head-off to state at the end of May for the state contest,” Mosher said.
Most recently, the band received Division 1 ratings in the UIL Concert and Sight Reading contest.
“It’s the first time in 7 years so it’s a very positive thing for these kids and puts them in great shape for next year. We have made a lot of progress,” Mosher said.
“We didn’t just quit,” said band member Levi Wells.
“We stuck through it,” said Drum Major Julianna Barry. “We’ve met the new band director and I see a lot of hope, a lot of enthusiasm for the program.”
For the second year in a row, Jacksboro’s theater students advanced to the area competition from district and bi-district in the UIL One-Act Play competition.
At the area contest, the struggles began in earnest for the theater group. The night before the students were to perform, one actor lost her voice and another lost his mother. Two leads, Candice Bell and Travis Tomison were unable to perform in the area contest.
“At 7 that morning, Ms. (Donna) Fenter (the theater director) woke me up in the hotel and told me to go get everyone,” said Stage Manager Filo Ponce who was also a drum major this year. “And she told us that Travis’ mom had passed away and that Travis had left with Ms. (Beverly) Solomon. She told us that they were going to try out me and Arianna Silva. Then later on, we found out Candice was out.”
“We started practicing and I said one line and Fenter said, ‘She’s not doing that,’” Bell said.
Fenter took her to an urgent care clinic where she got a steroid shot and an antibiotic shot, but it did not help in time for the show.
Silva took on Bell’s role and learned the lines in less than 3 hours. Though Ponce was the stage manager and knew most of the lines, he had to brush up on exact wording to avoid point deductions in the competition.
“We got through it. It wasn’t the best (performance) but nothing crashed and burned,” Ponce said. “The show went on.”
Bell said in recent years, support for the theater program has gone up and the performances show it.
“Before, no one really thought of Jacksboro as competitive,” she said.
“The past three years, they’ve noticed that we now have a reputation coming along,” said Ponce.