SELMA – Gunfire may have halted their first performance of the season, but the Selma High Marching Band is preparing to retake the field on Oct. 7.
The band boosters hosted a community night on Sept. 27 and opened field show rehearsals at Staley Stadium to the public. As the color guard rehearsed their choreography and band members tuned their instruments, parents, teachers and students say they’re putting the incident behind them.
“We’re not going to hide,” band boosters President Jennifer Winter said. “We’re going to get back out there and do what we want to do.”
Winter, who is also president of the Selma Unified school board, said that support goes out to all students.
“That goes for not just band, but that goes for football, water polo, volleyball and tennis and all our students," she said. "That goes for everything. Let’s show we’re not going to let this slow us down.”
In the wake of the shooting, district officials have met with the Selma Police Department to review communications and evacuation procedures, Winter said.
“Something like this always brings to the forefront what we need to do and how can we improve,” Winter said. “This is what we did right. What can we do better for the future? Hopefully, there isn’t a next time.”
Police and school officials have coordinated a safety plan to ensure spectators’ safety for the homecoming game scheduled for Oct. 7 and all school and community activities.
Chief Greg Garner said some arrests have already been made at residences known to be problematic in the neighborhood near the high school and that a noticeable police presence will be felt during the game.
“I don’t want to say specifically what we’re planning on doing, but everyone will notice a much heavier police presence in the area and not just for football — at any event where there’s a large gathering of people,” he said.
New band instructor Janna Hall said she was stunned to hear gunfire erupt just minutes into the band’s show on Sept. 16. She said she was standing at the top of the stadium so she could view the performance that night.
“I hear the screeching and saw the whole thing, and then I heard gunshots,” she said.
Hall said her first thought was for her students’ safety, but she was also angry their show was so violently interrupted.
“I remember thinking ‘No!’ I wanted to hear them because they’d worked so hard and it was going so well," she said. "This is their first time to let the parents and community see [the full half-time show].”
Hall said that after talking with counselors after the shooting, the band students are focusing on what they do best – performing.
“I think coming out here two Tuesdays in a row [to rehearse] has really been healing," she said. "I’m sure everyone can’t help but feel anxious when we get to this spot. Will we be able to go on this time?”
Hall said there may be some trepidation going into their Oct. 7 performance, but she said the band members are resolved to go on.
“There’s still going to be a little bit of that [nervousness], but these are really resilient kids. They love performing and they want to do it, so I think they’ll push through it,” she said.
Color guard instructor Espi Tovar agreed. She said they cancelled a Saturday rehearsal that was scheduled the day after the shooting to give students time to recover. Since then, she says they’re ready to move on.
“They came the next week like ‘that’s in the past and we’re ready to move on. Nothing’s going to stop us,'” she said.
Parent Rena Martinez came to watch her son, Samuel Martinez, who plays snare drum in the band. He’s a freshman and that first performance was supposed to be time to show the results of hours of rehearsals, she said.
“At 7 a.m. in the morning, he’s here. Then they come back in the afternoon from 6 to 9 p.m. practicing for this moment," she said. "He’s a freshman and this was his first show at Selma High. My whole family was out here and we were excited.”
Martinez said she’s saddened that their first show will be marred by this memory, but she’s relieved to see the extra safety precautions being taken by the school and police now.
“I see the school district working really hard and I saw them working hard that night and a lot of police presence that night. I’m happy with how they’re handling the situation,” she said.
Police squad cars were on standby at the stadium as the students rehearsed on Sept. 27. On other parts of campus, water polo games were taking place at the pool and football players practiced on another field.
Hall said she hopes that the next time the band takes the field, their show, entitled “The Storm,” will be the focus instead of security. The students say that while they may be nervous, they’re resolved to not live in fear.
“I feel like people should come just to show this does not affect us,” drum major Harsimran Bassi said. “The first football game coming back, there will be jitters and nerves, but once we get performing, our show will contain all of our heart and we’ll show them they don’t define us! It happened, but this is Selma and we are Bears!”