On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 28, all 300 members of the Prosper High School Mighty Eagle Band woke up with the same goal in mind: making it to the state contest.
For Prosper, advancing to the state marching competition is something foreign, something new. It’s an opportunity that only comes around every other year. The last time Prosper had an opportunity at advancing was 2015, where they fell just two placements shy of advancing.
When 2017 came around, they were hungry for redemption.
Director of Bands, John Alstrin, is no stranger to success in the fine arts. Before coming to Prosper in 2014, Alstrin served as assistant director at LD Bell and led the band to two state final finishes and three top-ten finishes at Bands of America. When he landed in Prosper, Alstrin had a vision for the band.
“When I saw this band, I saw a nationally competitive group,” Alstrin said. “(The students) are really smart, quick to learn, their parents want them to be successful and they’re willing to work hard. That’s part of the reason you move to Prosper, you want the best for your kids.”
The Mighty Eagle Band earned superior ratings at the HEB Marching Festival and UIL Region competition, but faced their biggest hurdle at the Area Competition by competing against bands that traditionally advance to the state competition, such as Wakeland and Frisco Centennial.
“There’s certainly excitement about it,” Alstrin said. “It’s kind of like anytime you play games with your friends, it’s fun, you want to win, but in band it’s really about making the best show you can.”
In the preliminary round, Prosper placed 2nd out of 24 bands and earned a spot in the final round. The final round consisted of ten bands and Prosper took second again, just below Frisco Wakeland.
“It was exciting,” said Caleb Belonga, trumpet player and seven-year band student. “I was relieved to know that all our hard work over the years had paid off.”
With so much attention surrounding the band’s first-ever trip to state in the school’s history, Alstrin strives to remind his students to do their best and focus on themselves.
“They just need to try their hardest every day,” Alstrin said. “I want them to walk away thinking, ‘I tried my hardest everyday and that was a life changing experience and now I understand it pays off to work hard.’”
Many bands add extra detail and ornament to their music, uniforms or drill when heading into a big competition such as the state contest, and Prosper is no exception. Just a few weeks ago, they showed off their yellow sleeves at a football game, adding effect to their show.
“We added eight more pages of drill about 20 seconds of material for a bigger ending,” Alstrin said. “We have another thing that we’re changing, but we can’t talk about it. There’s always another little thing that we like to add.”
Alstrin said that no matter the outcome, the students are his goal. He wants more students to advance in competitions and receive scholarships.
“We would not be able to accomplish what we have without the major investment from the school district,” Alstrin said. “That is the fundamental belief of why I believe prosper will continue to be successful in all their endeavors: there is an investment in fine arts and a philosophical belief in fine arts education.”
For the 44 seniors in the band, this feat was especially bittersweet. The now-seniors were sophomores the last time Prosper had a shot at the state contest.
“We’ve never done any of this before,” said Emily Ray, drum major and featured soloist. “Just the fact that it’s all lining up with our senior year is a great way to end our last year.”
The Mighty Eagle Band will compete at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 11:30 a.m.