by Billy Bannon
A five foot tall lobster furiously pursues a green humanoid across the football field. His eyes blaze as red as his claws. In his mind, one thought eclipses all others: revenge.
Senior Brody Allsep normally plays a saxophone in the band, but at last year’s St. Thomas vs. Strake Jesuit football game, he wore a lobster costume to illustrate the band’s ocean-oriented music.
In the midst of their half time performance, a Strake Jesuit student clad entirely in green Spandex, infamously known as the “green man,” intruded on the field in an attempt to steal the spotlight. His fans applauded and howled from the stands.
Allsep would not tolerate this. The green man must feel the icy sting of justice and, in the process, learn a few manners, a lesson that his education obviously failed to teach him.
In a gut decision, Allsep sprinted towards his prey, costume flailing about. They passed the 30, the 20, the 10 and finally, the touchdown line. The chase ended at the foot of a wooden fence.
This surrealistic scene depicts the charisma, dedication and randomness swelling within one of the school’s most significant components: the band.
Students have grown accustomed to seeing the band at multiple school events throughout the year, specifically pep rallies and football games in these first few months.
Row after row of glistening red polos, emblazoned with the words “STH Band,” line the stands, woodwind and brass instruments in the front, drums thundering behind. They stand there each Friday and witness every moment of the football games from the kickoff to the final minute.
The group consists of 27 brass instruments (trumpet, tuba, French horn), 26 woodwind instruments (flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe) and 19 drums, equaling 72 members total.
Students from St. Thomas, Incarnate Word Academy and Duchesne Academy join the band for various reasons, whether it be to meet new people (particularly those of the opposite gender), to polish their musical talent, to quiet their parents’ pestering or, as in Incarnate Word freshman Cally Moundry and senior Tiffany Moudry’s case, to spend quality time with the family. Band Director Donald Thoede is their cousin.
“[Mr. Thoede] is too loud,” Cally said, “but I love him. He is family.”
“Loud” adequately describes the enthusiastic band director.
As students practice Monday through Friday at 7:00 A.M., the wee hours of the morning, Thoede illuminates the room with his humor and bizarre stories.
“It seems like he has a new story every day, one you have never heard before,” said senior Rob Mabry, an example being “One day he was driving around San Francisco and spotted a person wearing a peculiar clothing item: a hollowed out tree stump.”
Thoede’s insight crackles like the punch line of a joke: amusing, arresting, but honest.
“Ah, Mr. Thoede,” junior Leo Linbeck said. “He’s a really energetic director with an incredible amount of music theory knowledge. He’s the one holding us all together.”
Although he possesses an air of amiability and infinite jest, Thoede does not handle his position lightly. He shuns reckless behavior in the band hall and urges each musician to play precisely on tempo, in unison, in order that they may reach their full potential.
Thoede has conducted the band since 1999. Before St. Thomas, he taught at Sam Houston State University as the saxophone professor and played in a variety of musical groups, particularly rock.
Thoede’s love for classic rock is evident in the songs that the band plays at football games. Whenever the opponent scores a touchdown, it plays songs such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” or “Highway to Hell.” In addition to these, their music selections consist of a large variety, from the Austin Powers’ theme to the pop hit “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga.
The band is certainly not short of creativity when they perform at football game half time shows. Example: at last year’s Beaumont Kelly halftime show, the band performed an original skit entitled “Titanic 2” written by alumnus Ryan Zapalac.
“Titanic 2” acted as a follow up to the Academy Award winning film starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslett. In it, the doomed lover Jack Dawson rises from the grave, equipped with supernatural abilities. He seeks revenge against Mother Nature for his tragic death and unleashes global warming upon Earth. When all hope seems lost, Al Gore arrives, ready to combat the climate changing menace.
The band has also employed colorful costumes, interpretive dancing by junior Bob Forzano and other creative techniques in its shows, defining it beyond the average high school band.
Students do not always appreciate the gift of having a school band. They often stereotype musicians as “nerds” and dismiss the band as an addition as common as the textbooks in their backpacks.
The band is different. In spite of the practices and dull routines, they retain a zeal and commitment that amplifies across the campus.
“I think that the students appreciate the band,” said Incarnate Word junior Christi Fote. “I remember last year when it rained out, everyone was asking ‘Where’s the band?’”
Even after football season ends, the band marches on. Noteworthy performances in the upcoming months include the Thanksgiving Prayer Service on November 23.
“Come out and support us,” senior Gustavo Rodriguez said. “We work just as hard as the athletes. This band will continue to get better every year.”