The challenges, the kids, the instructor and the community look to Coach Adams and the Sam Houston Band members as an inspiration.
The eastside community is not void of individuals who make a difference in the community or daily lives of its constituents. But one individual in particular that has had a tremendous impact on our community and especially on the young adults is Sam Houston High School Band Director Bruce Adams.
Adams is a product of the San Antonio Independent School District who attended Hirsch Elementary, Jefferson Davis Middle School, and Sam Houston High School. After graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1988, he attended Florida A& M University. Where he was a member of the Florida A & M University Marching Band (The Marching 100), Symphonic Band, and Saxophone Ensemble. He completed his undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University in 1997.
Upon graduation from FAMU, he moved back to San Antonio and began teaching as an elementary music teacher at Ferdinand Herff and Henry Carroll Elementary Schools where he taught for three years before transferring to Martin Luther King Middle School. While at King, he served as not only the Band Director, but the basketball, volleyball, and track coach. When asked about his transition to high school he stated, “In 2007, I made it full circle and became the Head band director at Sam Houston High School. During this time, I realized that I found my calling solely in music. My passion is to help all of my students go to college. I believe that music is leading my students in the direction of higher education. This music is a vehicle to get them to college.”
Since coming to Sam Houston, and under the direction of Coach Adams as he is affectionately known, there has been over 30 students who have received some form of financial assistance to college, through music. Many of these students have received full music scholarships to attend college.
Adams states that one of the challenges that he faced in his quest is the challenge of support and belief. In pondering his early years, he shares the struggles he encountered. “My first three years at Sam Houston were pretty hard, community wide. We were at a crossroad at Sam Houston with the threats of being shut down. Students were not coming to Sam Houston. The few that did come did not join the band. I remember about seven students showing up for pre-drill (the two-week practice before school starts). It was mind boggling. I came from a middle school (academy by this time) and the students just did not show up. Students were being coached to go to other schools. If they came to Sam and had been in middle school band, their experience was so bad that they did not want any more band experience.”
He continues by saying “Thank God for the few parents that were willing to take a chance and try it for a year. When the dust settled in the first year, 2007, we had about 17 students in the band. Sometimes you just have to play with the cards that are dealt to you. Many times, it is not a good hand. You just have to know how to play.”
“The band, as of last year, reached 70 students. There are still challenges that we face in the band program that brings about fluctuation with numbers. For the most part, the band maintains 50 plus students. I believe in quality over quantity, any day. People, mostly adults who do not know about our program or even take the time to learn about the program, spread rumors; they come and go from year to year. I continue to stay steady and focus on my calling; giving students the opportunity to leave the Eastside of San Antonio to go to college.
You can tell when in the presence of Adams that expectations are high, both on and off the field. He is proud to let you know that students in the Sam Houston high school Band are expected to maintain a certain GPA. “We push academics very hard. I understand that without the academics, there is no acceptance to college. We have had a few Valedictorians and Salutatorians to graduate from our program. We constantly flood the top 10 graduate group each year. The expectation when you leave our program is to go to college; and graduate from it. The fruits of our labor are starting to happen. There is already a former drum major of the Sam Houston Band, graduating and giving back to the Sam Houston Community. It is truly surreal. In the next few years to come, I will be attending college graduations of students that were from our band program. What an honor!”
Achievements are nothing new to the band as they have garnered numerous achievements. “Although our main objective is to graduate our students and send them to college, we still have the challenge of competing at UIL events. Since being here at Sam Houston, I am proud to say that our students have reached the level of All State. We have also made the Superior level at the band contests. Thus far, it has not been the sweepstakes level, but that is on the short list of accomplishments to achieve. Remember, getting my students to college is the ULTIMATE goal.”
“We recently were afforded the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to perform in the National Memorial Day Parade. This was an awesome experience for our students. Do not get me wrong, that parade was nothing in comparison to the Fiesta parades, but it was an educational experience. I was very excited about the opportunity to share in this experience with my kids in our nation’s capital. We visited the Lincoln, Martin Luther King, WW II, and Korean Monuments. We walked up to look all the way up on the Washington Monument. We had an exciting time in the newly opened African American Museum. We just had fun!”
The band has also been to Atlanta, Georgia. “We visited Coke USA, The Aquarium, CNN Studio, College Football Hall of Fame. We took a tour of the Martin Luther King Museum. The students sat in Ebenezer Baptist Church. We viewed the grave of Dr. and Coretta Scott King. We toured the home that Dr. King lived in. My belief is that if we can take our kids outside of the walls of Bexar County and show them other opportunities and things that they have heard or read about, their dream becomes bigger and actual.”
With Adams at the helm of the Sam Houston band, we know there will always be many opportunities for the students to participate in many, many experiences and to bring continued joy to the community as evidenced by the crowd reaction to their performances at the Hurricane football games and the annual Battle of Flower parade. Their performances are reflected in the expectations of its director. When asked about their future endeavors he states that, “this year we will continue our fundraising efforts to continue to take our students to summer band camp at the Florida A & M University. We know that this has been a great experience for our students to perform with other students from all over the world. We will continue our quest to accomplish the sweepstakes level at UIL events. We will continue to encourage our students to work towards individual UIL goals. Academics will be a primary goal.
We will continue to preach that “Going to college is not an option. It is a must!”