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Herriman Journal

Support for Herriman High band director is forte

Oct 12, 2023 10:28AM ● By Jet Burnham

In music, forte means loud and strong. When Herriman High School Band Director Raymond Hernandez was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the beginning of marching band season, the community’s response was forte.

“Band directors from across the state have been reaching out to me about what they can do to show support for our students or help me out with classes,” Hernandez said. “They are willing to help me find substitutes. I had people offering to cook and take me to chemotherapy. A whole army of band directors came together.”

Family and friends, students and their families and colleagues organized fundraisers for medical bills, wore “forte with Nandez” shirts to show support on chemotherapy days and sent a steady stream of cards and gifts.

“Every time I go into my office, there’s a new gift basket on my desk,” Hernandez said.

Twenty-five-year-old Hernandez said focusing on the marching band practices and performances helps distract him from dwelling on his illness and treatments.

“You would think all this craziness would make me more stressed, but it’s actually a really good break,” he said. “I love being with these kids. I think this would be a lot harder if I didn’t have those kids with me.”

HHS band member April Harrison said she and her peers are determined to help make things run smoothly for Hernandez by working hard, cleaning up after themselves and being responsible.

“This is going to be hard on him, it’s going to be hard on us, and we just want to make sure that he’s focused on his health and not the little things, like the band room isn’t clean,” she said. “So everyone has been stepping up. And that’s a lot of what’s pushing our marching band show this year, as well. We are a lot more motivated.”

Support for Hernandez and the HHS bands has also come from “rival” school bands.

Members of Bingham High School’s marching band, which competes in the same division as HHS, brought popsicles to the 110 HHS band students during one of their hot summer rehearsals.

“The camaraderie between the bands is amazing so it doesn't surprise me that any of the bands would step up and support Herriman and Mr. Hernandez, because marching band kids are the best kids you'll ever find,” BHS Marching Band Booster President Joey White said. “To have a band whose direct director is not well indirectly affects all of the bands, because every band is honestly rooting for every band to be their best.”

Even during competitions, which run every weekend from mid-September to early November, the high school marching bands cheer each other on. Many of the bands are wearing blue ribbons on their uniforms during competitions to show support for Hernandez.

 “Herriman [High School] has a tradition of supporting all the other marching bands when we go to competitions, so I think there's just been a lot of payback,” HHS Assistant Band Director Keith Davis said. “It’s ‘You guys have supported us for years and now you need it so now we’re supporting you’ so it's been pretty cool.”

Kenna Dickson, a member of Mountain Ridge High School’s marching band, said when they heard about Hernandez’ illness, she and her bandmates immediately wanted to do something.

“We want to show that we love and care about Herriman [High School] and to have unity for the bands,” she said.

The MRHS marching band joined the HHS marching band to play pep music at a HHS football game Sept. 1. When HHS premiered part of their new marching band routine before the game, MRHS band students cheered the loudest.

“Technically we are rival schools, but just having that extra support and having them come play with us in the stands just shows that even though we are rivals, we can push past that and all come together as a community,” Harrison said.

Davis appreciated the sacrifice of the MRHS band members taking time out of their busy schedule to come support the HHS band.

“This whole town of Herriman is a good community and is really close, and even though we’ve got two high schools here, they know each other and I think they support each other really well,” said Davis, who is the band director at Copper Mountain Middle and has worked with the HHS band for seven years.

This is Hernandez’s second year teaching at HHS (he also spent one year as a student teacher there). He previously was the band director at Providence Hall.

MRHS Marching Band Director Cris Stiles went to college with Hernandez. They both graduated from the University of Utah’s School of Music and took teaching positions at schools just five miles apart.

“We went to school together, and hopefully we’re going to work together for the next 30 years,” Stiles said. λ



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