Blue Thunder Band making a lot of noise |

Blue Thunder Band making a lot of noise

Maggie O'Neill
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal The Carson High School band performs at the school before the beginning of the Senator's game against the North Valley Panthers early October Above left, band director Robert Brooks, reflected in a tuba, talks to the band at the end of Thursday's rehearsal at the school's sports field. Above right, the percussion section practices Thursday.

And the beat goes on for the Carson High School band, recent winner of three first-in-class trophies. It’s a tough-to-lose kind of beat that sends a challenge to other schools.

“Locally, right now, we’re undefeated,” said band director Robert Brooks, who in his second year at Carson High has led 72 band students to a cache of 17 trophies.

The school has seen more competition in October than students, parents and band supporters in the community can recall ever happening before, and the band is sticking with winning like it’s preordained.

But it isn’t. Brooks and the Blue Thunder Band are just beginning to get comfortable with each other. His students, and parents of the students, seem nearly in disbelief about the possibility of a great future.

“They never attended band competitions before and now they’re going nearly every week,” said Jackie Rhea, the band’s public relations coordinator. “The band looks good.”

“It sounds great,” she added.

“Band is a lot of fun,” said John Akerly, 18, one of two drum majors, or conductors, for the band. Brooks “is doing a great job. He’s brought the program up a lot.”

Brooks said some students think he’s tough, possibly too tough, but he explains it as his desire for students to take themselves seriously.

“I really strive to have them do their best no matter where they are, no matter if anyone is there or not,” he said. “It’s the idea of being good as compared with seeming good. Do you just try hard when others are watching?”

On Friday evening, Brooks and his band, including nine choir members, arrived in Las Vegas for the prestigious Bands of America competition, a contest that pits the best bands in the region against each other.

Brooks modestly calls Bands of America a learning experience for the students, but subsequent sentiment shows the tough band-competing side too.

“What I’d like to do is make the finals. Be in the top 10,” he said before the group departed.

Trophies will tell what happened when they get back in town. And when they do, they have a busy weekend ahead of them.

This Friday, the Carson High School band will host the Capitol Classic competition at the high school from noon to 4 p.m. Northern Nevada bands will be participating and two will be traveling from Las Vegas. It’s an opportunity for the community to wake up, as Brooks calls it, and come support the high school band.

“There’s this saying that every community has exactly the band they want,” he said. “I think that’s really true. If they really want to provide an atmosphere at the highest level possible for their kids, they’ll get involved and make sure it happens.”

The next day, on Saturday, the Carson High School band performs in the Nevada Day Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. on Carson Street. It will be the 24th group in the parade – and the returning champ, after winning for the first time in a dozen years, according to Brooks. But for him, winning is not the goal.

“Being good is way more important to me than winning,” he said. “You can still win and not be any good.”

The band is still finalizing its show for the Nevada Day Parade. Having performances perfected weeks before sometimes leaves the students with nothing to work toward, Brooks said.

His philosophy is the beat has to be exciting and a change-up has to keep on coming.


When he came to Carson High School two years ago, previous experience had already showed him the wisdom of hiring people to create music and choreography, instead of reusing stale and tired band pieces.

“I would find some way to put the best I could get in front of the kids and see what happens,” Brooks said. “They got really excited about it instantly and they could just see and hear the quality. They ended up performing a lot better simply because the show was a blast to work with.”

In November, the band heads to a Eugene, Ore., competition as the fall season begins to reach its close.

It seems the idea is to keep marching upward and onward.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’ or 881-1219.