The Spirit of San Antonio
First steps for the UTSA Marching Band
Football has arrived at UTSA. But as the players line up for kickoff, someone has to stir the emotional fires on the field and in the stands.
Ron Ellis, UTSA’s new Director of Athletic Bands, spent the past year envisioning the moment when woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments meld together in the public performance of the university’s fight song, and hearts soar in support of the UTSA Roadrunners.
“You just can’t put the feeling into words—when everyone is in the stands, gearing up for the game and all of a sudden the drum roll starts and the band marches out of the tunnel. They represent all the hopes and aspirations of everyone at UTSA,” said Ellis.
These moments also represent a special triumph for Ellis, who came to UTSA from the University of Central Florida in 2010 to fulfill the school’s commitment to have a marching band debut alongside the new football team.
Ellis has spent the last year immersed in details—from picking out piccolos and tubas to choosing band uniforms to figuring out where to store the instruments. He reinvigorated the school fight song, revved up emotional support for the band on and off campus, and began the process of raising needed funds—all before selecting a single band member or organizing one rehearsal.
“We began with the stance that we are going to provide the students with a great learning opportunity and build this into one of the best marching bands in the country,” Ellis said. “Like the football team, it is going to have to start not slowly, but smartly.”
He was given one year to plan, organize and equip an initial start-up band of 150 to 175 members. He hopes to be able to add more musicians as the band gains skill and financial support.
Last year, Ellis worked to increase the visibility of the UTSA Pep Band at basketball games and other university events. Those students were given an opportunity to apply for the marching band. Ellis selected three drum majors and about three dozen student staff members during the spring. Recruiting for new band members began in May as part of freshman orientation.
Most UTSA students come from Central and South Texas, a hotbed of high school football pride and home to some of the best high school bands in the country. Ellis expects some of those band members will be enrolling at UTSA, and many of them will relish the opportunity to become part of a collegiate marching band. Prior band experience is not necessary, he stressed.
“Every person is evaluated, regardless of their experience,” he said. “Those people with high school and marching band experience are a step ahead. But that doesn’t mean you can’t acquire these skills over a season or two. We are a university; we want to teach.”
Nor do band members need to be music majors. In his experience, Ellis said, most marching band members are majoring in science, engineering or computer technology. For their participation in the band, they get an elective credit towards their degree and an activity that looks good to future employers. Band members gain confidence and public poise while learning skills like time management and leadership.
Fans should expect the band to reflect San Antonio and South Texas, both in its membership and its performances.
“Our halftime show might be country-western one week, then rock-n-roll, then Tejano the next,” Ellis said. “We want to capture the spirit of UTSA and the city of San Antonio.”