RALLS, Texas — A group of marching band students in Ralls has learned how hard work pays off. The Jackrabbit Band is State-Bound for the first time since 1980, according to Kenneth Walker, Head Director of bands at Ralls ISD.

Ralls wasn’t always known for having a good band program and the school had band directors coming in and out, Walker said. He is the longest-tenured band director since the school’s opening, going on his 10th year teaching. When he started, there were only 36 high school band students — that number has more than doubled since.

The Region 16 band competed at the Area marching contest on Saturday at Dick Bivins Stadium in Amarillo. The band were top 10 finalists in the prelims and felt a surge of emotions while lined along the field, awaiting results on who would advance to state. Then, the Jackrabbit Band secured its State spot with 4th place in the finals.

The UIL state competition is on Halloween at 8:15 a.m. at the San Antonio Alamodome. The band will perform a show titled “Going Down the Rabbithole” with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

“It’s amazing to see their progress and their growth,” Walker said.

Walker explained that band is about more than the music and he didn’t expect every student to be a band director one day. It’s about, “Teaching them how to be successful. Teaching them work ethic. You gotta get back up,” Walker said.

Overcoming obstacles

May of 2022, the Ralls community was mourning the loss of a student, Molly Doolittle, who tragically died in a crash in Crosby County. The Jackrabbit Band dedicated a show to her.

“It still lingers. We lost a teacher too. So overcoming that, and there’s always changes,” Walker said.

Small schools do not get a lot of funding, Walker said, and kids are busy as they are involved in more than just band. But after placing 3rd at their first UIL meet in Denver City, the band kept the momentum going, and took initiative to practice outside of school hours.

The response from the community has been nothing short of incredible, Walker said. People have been reaching out, messaging and calling, and school administrators immediately got a travel plan in place.

“It almost feels like it didn’t happen,” Walker said, expressing how surreal it felt that the band had accomplished such an achievement.

Looking ahead

Mr. Walker has one hope moving forward.

“Just to keep this going. It’s taken that long to try to change the culture and make small towns understand that band is something, it can be fun,” Walker said. “It’s a completely different band program than Ralls has had in the past, I want to keep building on it.”

Some of the Jackrabbit Band students will play special roles in the performance, Walker said. The character appearances are as follows:

  • Red Queen – Drum Major, Trombone, Colorguard; Ashley Pina
  • Mad Hatter – Colorguard; Manny Sauceda
  • Alice – Colorguard; Destiny Garza
  • Cheshire Cat – Clarinet; Ariel Rodriguez
  • White Rabbit – Flute; Alie Hitt

The Jackrabbit Band state competition performance can be streamed at box5tv.com.