Director Zeb Bellon Revives Demon Band


Adrina Montoya, Author

Band director Zebulon Bellon, who taught at Santa Fe High in 2014 for a year, returned to Demon Country in 2021. In the intervening years he went to graduate school and taught for five years at Northwestern State University and later at Texas Tech University.

Mr. Bellon grew up in a small town in Nevada near Lake Tahoe. Originally, he came to Santa Fe in 2014 to be closer to his beloved grandparents, who lived in Colorado. “I love teaching high school and I have friends here in Santa Fe,” explained Mr. Bellon. 

Mr. Bellon is determined to make Santa Fe High’s band great again. Post-Covid, the band had only 12 students, most of whom were beginners and weren’t affiliated with each other. “There hasn’t really been a true band here in about 30 years, so trying to wake that back up and make people remember is hard,” he said. 

First, he started recruiting members by going to local middle schools, playing and speaking in band classes, and telling those students, “Don’t give up. Keep going, keep going!” He also talked to students who used to be in band and asked them to rejoin. Many of the newly recruited members were behind and had a lot of practicing to do. 

Mr. Bellon said that teaching band is a “process.” Twenty staff members work with the band. Some provide private lessons to individual members, which include one-on-one feedback. Student and section leaders also help their fellow peers.

Mr. Bellon claims the biggest factor of a band’s success is for students to show up and try: “If they are showing up and trying 90 percent of the time, they are successful,” he said.

Keeping students engaged throughout the band-building process can be difficult. “It’s hard to motivate students, especially after Covid,” said Mr.Bellon. To face this challenge Mr. Bellon says, “I just don’t let them quit. If there is no effort or motivation, it doesn’t really work out. I make them keep trying until they get it right.” 

By spring of 2022, the band had doubled its membership, containing 27 students who were able to play well together. In 2022, the band also received superior ratings at the MPA (Music Performance Assessments), which hadn’t been done by SFHS students since 2014. 

By 2023, the band’s size had tripled, now containing 85 band members. 

As seen throughout the past season’s football games, the band has improved significantly. At the first football game they played music, at the second they began to use props, toward the middle of the season they began to march, and by the end of the season they performed their big show at the Homecoming game’s halftime show. 

Mr. Bellon’s ultimate goal is to have 20 percent of the student body participate in band, which he maintains would increase graduation rates significantly. He claims, “Band is an academic, co-curricular class – it is more than just an extracurricular activity. It’s something that can really help students receive scholarships for college.”

It is through Mr. Bellon’s great effort that the SFHS band has been able to evolve into what it is today. He takes great pride in encouraging and reminding students that the effort is well worth it. 

He explained, “I got here and the kids didn’t know each other. To be in band you have to be friendly and cooperate with one another, and it was hard to get them to bond. But now, as you can see, they are bonding.”

He continued, “Not everyone is the same, but in band none of that matters…. You have to work together or else it doesn’t work. There is no one on the sideline, or benched, or sitting out. Everyone has to participate and contribute, and they have to find a way to get along and work together, and I think in the world right now that is a valuable skill.”