By MATHEW ZUÑIGA
Special to the NEWS
RIO HONDO – Clarinets are whistling, drums are beating and flags are being tossed. It can only mean one thing: band season is here.
For Rio Hondo High School, this means the beginning of a new era. Former RHHS band director John Garza announced his departure on July 9, leaving Rio Hondo in search of a new leader.
Benjamin Keltner, formerly assistant band director, has been named interim band director while the search continues. Keltner has been a part of the RHHS band for three years and knows the system. He is applying for the full-time band director job and believes it’s “very likely” he’ll be selected.
The RHHS band, although without a permanent leader, is hopeful. Band member Iris Gamez on the change of leadership said, “It’s for the best. Change will only make us stronger and help us improve.”
Gamez is a leader on the RHHS band and when asked if she is excited for this season, she said, “I’m excited because it’s a state year and excited to finally get on the field.”
Saxophone section leader Brian Juarez is looking forward to the band season, saying, “I’m really excited. Everything is so different, so I believe as a band we can take it to a whole new level.”
Keltner said, “It’s outstanding. In my opinion, our students, our staff and our support are second to none… the best in the Valley.”
Keltner, regarding goals and expectations, added, “We have the same ones (goals) every year: to be a positive place for students; be driven to win; advance as high as possible. It’s everyone’s dream to win a state championship, that’s the ultimate goal.
“Above all else,” he added, “it’s the attitude that excites me. The students have such positive attitudes. It’s amazing.”
Rio Hondo enters a state tournament qualifying year boasting an impressive track record over the past decade, placing 16th in 2002, 8th in ’04, 4th in ’06, 2nd in ’08, 6th in ’10 and 13th in ’12.