BANGS — At a recent morning practice session of the Bangs High School band, there was plenty to like.
The new synthetic turf field at Dragon Memorial Stadium, for one — much better for the band to play on than the grass it replaced.
The announcement that band members were going to be eating at Mr. Gatti's as part of their upcoming travel to an out-of-town football game, for another.
"Sweet!" Howard Payne University band director Corey Ash called out when he heard that announcement. Ash had dropped by the stadium that morning to listen to the Bangs band.
And second-year band director Ronny Luedke's brightly colored sneakers.
"I like your shoes. They're amazing," a band member told Luedke.
And how about that 48-member band, which includes 19 freshman?
"You're doing well. You've got a good balance," Ash told Luedke.
In typical band director fashion, Luedke stopped the band, started, stopped, started, calling out instructions and corrections, then let the band play and march. With band members casually dressed in an empty stadium, the discipline and effort was obvious nonetheless.
"It's going really good," Luedke said later in his office. "We're further ahead than I've ever been, so that's good."
Noting the 19 freshmen band members, Luedke said, "They just have to be kind of brought along." The freshmen are performing "really well," Luedke said, and he's proud of them.
"I try to focus on the new kids," Luedke said. "I enjoy seeing how they react."
Last year, Luedke took the reins of what was then a 42-member band. It was a transition year, a learning curve, Luedke said, and "I think we're past that now."
Luedke has taken on another challenge this year.
He has taken on another challenge this year. The high school's theatre arts department will perform the musical "Grease" in November. Luedke suggested to theatre arts director Shannon Lee that the jazz band perform the music live for the musical. Otherwise, a CD with pre-recorded music would be used.
There's an added dimension to that idea: the only sheet music that's been found is for piano, so Luedke is working on completing the musical arrangements for all the the jazz band instruments.
Luedke is from Robinson, a city of about 11,000 in the Waco area. He played trombone in the high school band, and played football and ran track. Luedke initially thought he was going to be a pharmacist, but music emerged as his passion.
Luedke’s musical gifts earned him a scholarship to Tarleton State University, although he didn’t decide until he was a sophomore that he wanted to become a band director.
Luedke graduated from Tarleton in 2005 and went to work in Rising Star, where he was also, "big brother, Dad …"
After seven years in Rising Star, Luedke took the job in Bangs, where he has help in Bangs that he didn’t have in Rising Star: an assistant band director, Charla Garcia.
Luedke said in an interview last year that he is passionate about music. And he is passionate about teaching. If he hadn’t pursued music, Luedke said then, he’d be a teacher in another field.
Luedke noted that contest ratings "are what everybody strives for." He said he'd rather have his band members "100 percent happy and satisfied with what they've done," and the ratings will come.