ALTO, TX (KTRE) - When you travel through Alto on State Highway 69, go ahead and roll down your windows.
There is a good chance you will hear an ensemble of soul and modern pop music ringing through the air. Depending on what time of day it is the sound is coming from either the Alto High School band hall or the Cam’ron Matthews Football Field. It is the sound of the Mean Sting Music Machine.
Five years ago, Band Director Tim Ektefaei joined the school. The band was small, just 25 students from 7th-12th grade participated. But his energy he once marched with at Prairie View A&M University quickly caught on and now the band program has 105 members. By 2A standards, the band is a large band.
“People don’t expect us to show out the way we do and most people that see us don’t know where we come from," percussion leader Adilyn Henley said. “When we tell them Alto they are shocked we are a 2A school.”
The school has marched in big competitions and placed against bigger schools. They have been in numerous parades. Their biggest accomplishment might be getting to take the field at half time of a PVAMU football game last year.
“It was a big deal to hear the fans cheer for us and for the band directors to come up and shake our hands,” Drum Major Marvin Roberts said. “It showed that we can accomplish anything.”
Ektefaei, or Mr. E, as the students know him makes it clear that it is not about how loud they are but how good they are.
“They remember you by the music you make,” Ektefaei said during practice. “It is not about how loud you are but about how good you are. Last week we missed a note on the Star Spangled Banner. I was on the other side shooting video of you guys and the other fans were trying not to giggle. You don’t get to do these half time shows because you are loud. You do them because you are good. These band directors don’t ask me, ‘Is Alto coming back this year?’ because you are loud. They ask because you are good. It takes 10,000 hours to be great. We got a long way to go but we will go together."
At a Yellowjacket football game, the band is not just trying to play to show what they can do. They play to keep the fans entertained. Along with songs being hurled towards the field, you will hear some band members singing and others dancing on the bleachers.
“Sometimes we will look over and the opposing team’s band and fans are dancing with us,”Ektefaei said. “It is cool but it also kind of takes the fun away. I have had times where we were playing and we could not hear the other band playing."
The fans may enjoy it but they band has run into problems before. This past Friday, a complaint was made about how loud they were in the first quarter of the Big Sandy game and they were asked to tone it down.
“We try to do our best but with over 100 members in the small stadium it is hard to make it any quieter,” Ektefaei said. "I mean we do it how we are supposed to. We can not start playing when they walk up to line up. We have to already be playing when they are in the huddle. We follow the rules. A few years ago we almost got kicked out of Buffalo. This week we have a game against Carlilse and they like to complain about us. Last year, Joaquin complained before we even made it on to the field.”
Despite the complaints, the band members smile and continue to play.
“When I was in seventh grade I would have never thought we would go from 25 to 100 members," Drum Major Flor Santiago said. “It is crazy what we have done. To me the Alto Band is family.”
And that is the lesson Mr. E wants his members to learn.
“What I want them to get out of this is that hard work pays off," Ektefaei said. “If it was easy then everyone would do this. I want them to see that they can get good at this and they can get a scholarship and go off to college and do something good with their lives.”