New Band Director Brings Change, Seniors Find Adjustments Challenging

Andre De Santos and Caleb Mickelsen

After eight years of Roman Lechuga leading the El Paso High Tiger Pride Band, there’s a new band director at the helm.

Ricky Vilardell takes over a program that got first division at UIL marching contest, were winners of class B at Socorro Marchfest last marching season, as well as getting first divisions at the UIL concert and sightreading contest, and EPISD Jazz Invitational last concert band season.

The committee  that was tasked to replace Mr. Lechuga found it difficult to find someone who had the experience and enthusiasm that Mr. Lechuga brought.

“Obviously replacing someone like Mr. Leuhuga who had a lot of energy and had been here a long time was going to be a difficult task. So, we wanted somebody who came with experience and then had a big vision of the program and met the expectations of the campus,” Principal, Mark Paz said. “With Mr V, I do see a little more structure, I feel like the kids are practicing a little more, And I think the game day environment is very similar but it’s more student lead. I guess Mr. V let a little more of the leading go to the students.”

Mr. Vilardell has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Master of Music degree from New Mexico State University. He has taught at Ysleta Middle School, Bel Air High School, and Ysleta High School.

“I love it here, it’s been great it’s been very welcoming. That’s the thing that has actually stood out the most is just how welcoming it’s been.”Mr. Vilardell said. “The students work tremendously hard, that’s the biggest thing that I have noticed when I first got here.”

Following up the success from last year’s band won’t be an easy task, but the objective remains the same.

“Our goals for this season is we want to defend our title of Class B Champions at the Socorro Marchfest, getting first divisions at the EPISD and UIL marching contests,” Mr. Vilardell said. “Pretty much our biggest goal for this season is to make finals at the NMSU Tournament of Bands.”

Mr. Lechuga announced last school year that he would be leaving El Paso High School and taking a job as an Assistant Band Director at Montwood High School.

“I was devastated, he was one of the main reasons why I like music. He’s like one of my motivators to go into music,” senior, Sebastian Bueno said.

Some band members have already made adjustments in the different approach Mr. Lechuga and Mr. Vilardell have in their directing .

“Lechuga was way more relaxed and we saw him more as a friend and Mr. Vilardell is pretty cool too, he just knows how to stay in the lines of teacher and friend within the students,” senior drum major Ana Garcia said.

With a new band director, there’s a different atmosphere and some adjusting to do. The band still needs to get used to how Mr. Vilardell teaches and how he runs the program.

“It’s a different vibe from last year, everything is a little more serious this year, but other than that it’s still fun,” sophomore baritone player Manny Olivas said. ” There’s still adjusting to do from all of us but overall he’s doing a good job.”

Some seniors are sad that Mr. Lechuga left on there last year of being in the band. But are hopeful that Mr. Vilardell will do a good job and will keep them united.

“I honestly don’t like it; it sucks all these changes are happening my senior year. I wished this had happened last year,”  senior percussionist Nickolas Ciaccio said. “Because I know for sure now that we have a new director the next few years the band is just going to get better. But it sucks that I’ll be gone.”

The Tiger Pride Band will begin marching band competition in October.