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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

In Formation

Halftime promises to score with new marching band

Imagine a football game in Austin without the sounds of The Eyes of Texas or in College Station without the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Can't do it, can you?

That emotional link between the game and the iconic songs of the university played by a marching band is something Ron Ellis, UTSA's director of athletic bands, is bound and determined to create in San Antonio.

The immediate goal, he said, is to have a 150-member marching band and color guard rocking the Alamodome for the first game on Sept. 3, 2011.

"When you think college athletics, nothing rivals [the moment] when the team runs out of the tunnel and the fight song cranks up," Ellis said. "It's a culture; it's an environment. It's an American tradition."

Ellis spent 20 years at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and was the director of athletic bands at UCF from 2004 until joining UTSA last summer. His experience extends to live entertainment on a broader scale as well.

He has worked as band choreographer, conductor or adviser for TV and HBO series and as a performer and music director for Disney's Very Merry Christmas Parade ABC television special since 1989. He will continue to serve as a music director at Walt Disney Attractions Entertainment in Orlando.

Ellis said he was attracted to the UTSA job as soon as he heard how the decision to have a band was made.

"When they first announced they were going to have football, someone said in a meeting, 'Who's going to do halftime?' And someone said we'll just have some high school bands come in. And apparently the students got real upset and kind of led a revolt to Student Affairs and said, no, we want our own marching band," Ellis said. "That's a dream situation."

Ellis said one immediate challenge is fundraising. "A marching band is a big-ticket item," he said. "A sousaphone is expensive."

Then come town hall information sessions, recruiting, auditions, procuring instruments, getting uniforms designed and made, and writing arrangements and movements.

Two of the highest-profile elements of a marching band—the school fight song and the look of the uniforms—are a priority.

UTSA's fight song, Go Roadrunners Go, was written in 1982 by Joe Stuessy, director of the Division of Music, and Alan Craven, director of the Division of English, Classics and Philosophy. (The pair also wrote the alma mater, Hail UTSA.)

Go Roadrunners Go, Ellis said, is being totally reworked.

"It's got a melody, it has some harmony, but the arrangement is not good [for marching]," he said. He'll add a countermelody, change the key and revamp the introduction.

As far as uniforms, Ellis said he's a proponent of having the clothing reflect not just the school, but also the community at large, its culture and history.

A rousing halftime show, "with the commitment and energy of the UTSA students who are representing their school in front of tens of thousands of people, creates a sense of community pride that is unmatched in live performance," he said.

"It's going to be amazing."

— Joe Michael Feist

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