Bringing home the triple crown

By Phil Major
Posted 11/11/21

All in, all the time.

That’s the mantra that has helped lead the Mineola marching band to the pinnacle of success.

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Bringing home the triple crown


All in, all the time.

That’s the mantra that has helped lead the Mineola marching band to the pinnacle of success.

The call and response from band director Chris Brannan and Sound of the Swarm members resonates through practices.

Judges at the UIL state marching contest in Conference 3A left little doubt that Mineola High School has the best 3A marching band in Texas.

All five adjudicators – three for music and two for marching – ranked the Sound of the Swarm’s performance as the best in the preliminary and final rounds.

One judge commented, “Wow!! More wow!! What an amazing show with high achievement. Even more wow!!! I was in tears of joy watching your show.”

Another concluded comments, “Great color guard. Great staging. Great design. Can I move to Mineola?”

The result – Mineola brought home the state championship trophy for the third straight time, adding to the hardware from 2017 and 2019.

That new addition to the high school band hall may need an addition just for trophies.

The band put on its well-honed halftime show “Hometown,” a tribute to small towns everywhere, twice at San Antonio’s Alamodome on Wednesday, Nov. 3, and sometime after 10 p.m., the announcer whittled down the list of top 10 bands until there were only two. And just as in 2019, the Whitesboro band was announced as the runner-up, leaving only Mineola standing.

Those two bands have set the standard in Conference 3A for the past five contests, held in odd-numbered years.

Whitesboro won it all in 2013 and again in 2015.

That second title came as Mineola’s program began its ascendance under Brannan, who left Queen City after consecutive titles in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The Sound of the Swarm took home the bronze medal that year for a third-place finish and has swept to the top ever since.

The Swarm won every marching contest it entered this season, capped by a fourth-straight area championship (the final qualifying step for state).

Neighbor Winnsboro also had its best showing, advancing to state for the first time, qualifying among the top ten bands for the finals and capturing the fifth-place trophy for its ”Night Circus” show.

Queen City placed third and Atlanta fourth. That put four of the state’s top five bands from Region 4 (and five of the top 10, with Redwater placing 7th).

One hallmark of the Mineola show – it continues to evolve. Noted additions from the area round to state included a garden fence and flowers around the small stage set up for soloists and additional flags representing many of the top bands, plus a bright orange Mineola flag.

Jeremy Strickland, the director of bands at Tyler Junior College which counts among its members several Mineola graduates, has been field coordinator for the state marching contest for 20 years.

“In that time my crew has moved almost 3,000 bands on and off the field at the Alamodome,” he said. “There are only a handful of performances during that time that have inspired all of us that were watching like the Mineola band did on Wednesday night.”

Strickland grew up immersed in high school band culture. His father, George, was a band director and spent 16 years as the assistant music director at the UIL.

“From a technical standpoint, it was flawless,” he said of the Mineola show. “They were musically phenomenal and visually stunning. Every hour that they spent working on the smallest detail this season could be seen in every second of the show.”

Strickland echoed the sentiments about the quality of high school band programs in the region.

“We are very lucky here in East Texas to have some of the best-of-the-best bands from the state!” he said. “You can see that music education of the highest level is alive and well in East Texas!”

Strickland has seen something truly special develop in Mineola.

“The culture that Chris Brannan and his staff have built with the Sound of the Swarm is at the top of all classifications across the state,” he said. “The Mineola directors have created a band experience where the students are able to achieve at a level far beyond their years while also enjoying their time in the band program. I saw more smiles, laughs and real tears of joy from the Sound of the Swarm students as they exited the field Wednesday than I saw from most bands combined.”

They were all in, all the time.

Brannan explained that phrase is something new for the band this year.

He said he met with the band’s student leaders, and they agreed that, coming back from the unusual circumstances of the COVID year, they needed to all be present for each other.

“That was a message for ourselves, to get here and be dependable, do your job,” he said.

“You have to help yourself and other people,” he added. “It really helped our kids to get back to work.”

The past year-plus had been hard on everyone – hard on kids, families and programs.

Mineola band program did not make excuses, he explained.

“It made our kids stronger, it kept the program going,” he concluded.

The show had much the same impact on the larger community. It told the story of Mineola, but everyone has a hometown and has that connection.

One judge even commented, “Incredible story telling.”

Likely more chapters are to be written.