Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
This is every school day in the life of a Roswell High School band member. They stand on the football field with yard markers telling them where they are at and where to be at each count of music and note they play.
Before school at 7 p.m., kids will stop and listen to the band practice on their way to class each morning to get their day off to a happy start. It’s 8 a.m. on Friday morning and they have been out on the field practicing for over an hour as they get ready for a competition in the Tumbleweed Marching Festival in Denver City on Saturday.
“I’m looking to inspire the kids for this competition,” Greg Odom, RHS’ band director said. “I want to help motivate the kids to do the best that they can.”
Their practice field is soggy and muddy as it has briefly sprinkled, but then stopped, causing the band to adjust to the weather and to conditions they might see during a game, but more importantly in what they might see in the competition in Denver City, Texas on Saturday.
Some of the members have trouble adjusting their footing as they march and play their song. Other band members are sweaty from having too much clothing on while marching, and others cannot get comfortable at all.
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Repeatedly, they stop and start and not only practice their song, “Interstellar” but the movement “schoop” has to be right for all 52 band members before they can move on to the next song. Conducting all the band’s movements is the affable Greg Odom.
Odom is hard to see until you’re on the field — he is wearing a baseball hat and prescription glasses, with a red shirt and gray slacks and tennis shoes, as he talks into a microphone that fits in his ear and comes out in front of his mouth.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Odom says. “Pay attention and go back to the block. Those of you in the front row, you can’t march flatfooted, you have to point your toes. Let’s finish out this song. No.3 all the way through.”
He paces the field and counts out 16 beats and steps that are so deliberate in each section of his band that they listen to him and laugh when he makes a joke about being a teacher for 36 years.
“The movements on the show match with the music,” Odom said. “The phrases and music are usually 16 bars — 16 counts, there’s a move and another 16 counts, there’s a move, so every 16 counts, the kids are doing something. The music is showing them where to go. I couldn’t do it without Dr. Gomez — he’s got my back and I’ve got his.”
Odom is as demanding as a football coach, only his classroom is the field with musical instruments and his competition is against his own band to be the best it can be, not against the other bands. Maybe that is why Roswell’s band just won the best band of the parade at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair for the 16th consecutive year.
As good as Odom is with the band, he needs the help of his trusted colleague, Dr. Daniel Gomez, who is an assistant at Roswell and the band director at Sierra Middle School with 10 years of experience. Gomez started out his musical journey as a sixth-grade band member in Littlefield, Texas, where he played saxophone, also played football, boy scouts and he did it all.
“I try to tell these kids they can do it all,” Gomez said. “We have to share these kids. That’s what my band director did in Littlefield (home of Waylon Jennings). I just managed my time.”
Gomez went to Eastern New Mexico University on a full scholarship for music. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he kept getting more money to be in the band and found out he was good at it before he decided to major in music after his sophomore year.
His mentor was current Eastern New Mexico University band director Dustin Seifert, crediting Siefert’s wealth of knowledge in different things in music and the band world. From there he went to New Mexico State University where he would get his master’s and then taught as a graduate assistant, before going to Texas University to get his Ph.D.
“I’ve learned under Greg (Odom) the dynamics of Roswell,” Gomez said. “I’ve learned to work with what we have and make it work and make it the best. My goal is to get each sixth-grade beginner through high school band and we’re well on that track. We have over 100 kids in the program this year. Our numbers are up — three years ago we only had 60 kids.”
Odom finds home
Odom’s track to Roswell was nothing more than fate. Odom graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in history, psychology and music. He came here in 2002 and started at Sierra for two years before moving to the high school. Odom’s instrument is the trumpet. Odom wanted to become a veterinarian but ended up playing the trumpet and his brother played trombone. One day in high school, his band director, Mr. Adams, was listening to Miles Davis and called him into his office and from there, he was sold on playing the trumpet.
Odom was looking at the New Mexico job board as the Sierra position opened up. He immediately thought of the place with the aliens. He did an interview over the phone and wanted to offer him a job but wanted to meet him first.
“Part of the reason why I love Roswell is because of the people,” Odom said. “When I first moved here in 2002 from Manhattan, Kansas, I didn’t have a place to live or a house and no paycheck because I’ve hadn’t started working yet. I went to the manager of Days Inn and asked how much money it cost to rent a room for two months. The manager told him it would be $1,600 for both months.”
Odom told the guy thanks, but he couldn’t afford it. The manager told him to wait a minute and asked how much money he had in his pocket. The manager asked him if he had a quarter and told him he was paid up for two months.
The manager told Odom we need good people and teachers in Roswell. We need somebody to help our youth. He made Odom promise to be the best teacher he could and be a positive role model and he would be paid up. The manager asked Odom to pay it forward one day when he was in a position to do so.
“That’s how I was able to stay in Roswell,” Odom said. “It was like God answered a prayer and every obstacle I had, God pushed them away.”
No competition with Goddard
Odom does not see Goddard as competition, in fact, he supports Goddard band and was happy for them when the Big Blue Band won the best band in their class on Tuesday.
“Competing is such a nasty word,” Odom said, “especially music wise. We’re not trying to one-up one another. We’re trying to support each other. When Goddard won on Tuesday, I was one of the happiest people because it was one of our guys. I don’t see it as a competition. I want them to succeed as much as we do. If Goddard’s band does well, it looks good for the music program in Roswell — same with Goddard. I take pride in that — we’re all colleagues and friends.”
Roswell competes at a higher level
Another reason why there is no competition between the two schools is that with reclassification, Roswell is 5A and competes against schools such as Clovis, and also Hobbs which has 300 band members to Roswell’s 52. Odom believes that their band can play and march the best they can to compete against the bigger bands.
To try to remedy that, Odom is helping with Mountain View, Mesa and Sierra middle schools. Odom can help the band directors at those school and encourages students to continue with the band — almost like a feeder system for the high school.
The cost to join the band is about $200, but they have to fundraise to travel and go to events. Odom is so forward-thinking that he added a bass player, Kaleb Wright — who is also an athlete in baseball — to the marching band.
First of all, there are no bass players in the marching band, and second, he is one of the first athletes in the marching band for Roswell. Wright got hooked on playing in the band after he played in the jazz band and enjoyed it so much that he is in the marching band this year.
Roswell’s band has a mixture of athletes, as well as members from the National Honor Society, debate team and student council. Odom feels like music is all-inclusive and is looking for hard workers wanting to learn. Odom feels like his program prepares a student to continue their career after high school.
“The biggest compliment I can get,” Odom said, “is to have a kid say, ‘I want to go to college to become a music educator because you inspired me so much.’ My philosophy is to make someone passionate about music so that they always want to play. I want to develop a passion in my students that they can’t see themselves not playing music.”