As the clock ticks down at the end of the first half of Harper High School’s Homecoming Game, the marching band is prepping near the end zone for the halftime show, but they’re missing some key members.
The band’s drum major, Rebekah Stracke, is also a cheerleader. It’s been a tight game for the winless Longhorns football team, and Stracke and the cheerleaders are leading the effort to get the standing-room only crowd fired up before the end of the first half.
Double duty is part of the drill for a band in a high school with about 200 students. Everyone has a job. On the football team is sophomore defensive lineman Jerrardo Rivera, who will strip off his shoulder pads and grab a saxophone.
“You are definitely sharing between programs,” said second-year band director Stephen Krupicka, who came to Harper after a decade in Shiner. “It takes a lot of communication and work between coaches and us, as band directors, to make sure the kids get into every opportunity they want to be in.”
With 63 members, Harper has one of the largest small school bands in the region, but they also draw from seventh and eighth grade students to make up the unit.
It also requires some heroic coordination of schedules and a slew of parent volunteers. For Stracke there’s no time to change for the halftime show, but fortunately there’s a slight modification to her outfit that makes her standout.
The 2019 field show program for the Harper marching band is the music of John Williams, the composer who has written some of the most iconic movie soundtracks ever, including “Star Wars.”
Stracke’s outfit change requires her to don a red cape — a nod to the soundtrack of “Superman,” which Williams wrote for the 1978 movie starring Christopher Reeve. Most of the band parents were little kids themselves when that movie was released.
Here’s the one issue for Stracke, and a lot of the members of the band: “I haven’t seen Jaws or Superman,” she admits.
With the exception of the theme for “Jurassic Park,” much of the music the band will perform dates from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The medley that they will play features selections from “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Superman” and “E.T.”
“There were a few kids who were like what’s this?” Krupicka said. “E.T. is one where they’re like is that a good movie?”
What helps Krupicka is the timelessness of music. Even before Harper took to the field for its who, Menard High School’s small band put on a wonderful rendition of “Shenandoah” and an excerpt from “New World Symphony,” a piece written by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak in 1893.
“Marching bands in Texas is a huge deal,” Krupicka said. “Music is definitely a big deal. I would say the music is the top priority and marching is second. I think part of this is picking the music that the kids are going to buy into and enjoy.”
Another element of the band’s performance is also the theatrics of the performance itself. With the help of her mom, Stracke puts on the cape that covers her cheerleading outfit and carefully climbs a platform to direct the field show.
Stracke’s world is school, cheerleading, band, cross country and track and field, where she was a state finalist in the 300-meter hurdles.
“There’s a lot of running around everywhere, but I manage to get it done,” said Stracke, who also maintains a A-grade average.
Saturday night, she’s directing the band through the Williams-inspired field show that will include band members Guinevere Hurlbert and Will Hughes dressed up in inflatable T-Rex outfits — an ode to Jurassic Park.
“I personally love Star Wars,” said Stracke, who also plays clarinet.. “I like that one musically too.”
The show presses on with the dinosaurs running through the band, and then comes Brody Hicks dressed as Indiana Jones from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” armed with a bullwhip to try to reign in the dinosaurs. A quick change and Hicks is now riding his bike through the band in an ode to the scene when E.T. is whisked away to safety and finally Hicks appears as Superman.
It’s a lot to take in, but the enthusiastic members of the Harper band wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For some of these kids this is everything,’’ Krupicka said.
After the Homecoming royalty is crowned, the halftime shows are over, Stracke sheds her cape and is back cheering for the Longhorns, who are locked in a tight battle against Menard.
The band has returned to its place in the stands, but it’s not done yet either, and from her spot on the track, Stracke directs them to play something. This goes on until the final moments of the game as Harper gets its first win of the season, 28-27.
The band played its part, but it will be back at it in the morning to perform in the Harper Frontier Days Parade before participating in a competition later that afternoon in Fredericksburg.
As Stracke said, there is a lot of running around. For Harper, the path they’re taking musically appears to be a big one and considering nearly a quarter of the school is involved in music seems to be a good indicator for the future of music in the Hill Country.