I Miss Marching Band!

Marching band was amazing.  I joined my freshman year, and I had a really hard time at first, especially at band camp.  All the veterans knew exactly what they were doing, and I was completely lost.  I could never get to my dot in time, I couldn't make the right step size, and I didn't even know how to play my saxophone standing up!  I really wanted to quit at first.

Then when the season actually started, I began to catch on a bit.  But I didn't start truly ENJOYING it until we started going to competitions.  We won our division in a couple of them, and I began to feel a sense of pride in my band.  I remember the winds instructor that our director hired...Mr. Atchley.  He was amazing...he was like a coach to all of us...he could always keep us moving and kept us motivated in the worst of times.  I remember how he would come up to me personally towards the end of my freshman year and say, "You're going to do awesome next year.  I know you had trouble this year, but next fall, you're just going to catch right on like the other veterans."  I kind of believed him, but I still thought I might struggle, but I was enjoying it enough now that I'd decided not to quit.

Sure enough, the next year at band camp, he was absolutely right!  At our first fundamentals session at band camp, I was marching 8 to 5 like nobody's business!  I certainly wasn't the best marcher or musician on the field, but I was just as good as many others.  Now it was the seventh and eighth graders and freshmen that were struggling...I could hardly believe that I was like that a year ago!

Junior year came along, and I was LOVING marching band.  I got to be a "big brother" to one of the rookies.  It was a system we had at band camp...each rookie gets a "big brother" or "big sister" who's a veteran to teach them the fundamentals, and at the end of the week, to initiate them!  W00t w00t initiation!  I could explain the details of initiation, but that's a totally different story...I might post another story on that later.  And here's the REALLY cool thing about that year at band camp...I got second place in a drilldown!  There was a senior who won the drilldowns almost every day, but I got SECOND!  I'd never even come close to that the previous years!  AND I got a leadership position as a lieutenant!  Basically, there were three lieutenants (one wind, one percussion, and one guard).  The lieutenants, in addition to the band captain and the field commander, would plan all the events, particularly the band camp events.  But we would also plan events in the season...such as the dinner we had whenever a visiting band would come.  We were basically the behind-the-scenes directors.

At the end of that season, we went to state, and we got sixth place!  That may not sound that good, but I remember how it was.  It was the best performance our band had ever done...and after we marched off the field, we all huddled together and cried..."This is what marching band is all about," said our director.  "It's not about football games, it's not about winning trophies at contests.  It's about putting EVERYTHING onto the field at your performances and THIS FEELING that you get when you know you've given it your all."

As that year neared its end, people were wondering who next year's leaders were going to be, as usual.  The field commander was obviously going to be the same because he was the only one trying out.  But the band captain was almost always a senior...and there were only two other people in my class in the band.  One of those people was the woodwind section leader, and the other was most likely going to be the guard captain.  Whenever people talked about who was going to be next year's band captain, my name was always mentioned...at first, I didn't really think I should take on that position.  I figured maybe one of the to-be juniors could be band captain.  But as the last few weeks of the season went on, I started realizing that the younger kids really looked up to me!  It was a really, really cool feeling!  Two years ago, everyone was looking down on me, but now, people were actually looking up to me!  Cool!

So I started thinking...maybe I should apply for band captain.  I knew how this band was supposed to be run...I had enough experience.  I was a good musician and a good marcher...and I knew how previous band captains had helped me, so I could do the same for my underclassmen.  So I decided to go for it.

Senior year came...and guess what...I was band captain!  Not only that, but since most of the low brass and low woodwinds were really young, I was also the low winds section leader.  I was looked up to by every single band member.  Not only was I the oldest, but I was both the best musician and marcher in the band.  And I'm not trying to brag.  It was really true...everyone knew it.  It was SO AWESOME having all these high schoolers looking up to me...even the field commander.  I had never been prouder of that band in my life...all of the rookies were EXCELLENT players...there was an eighth grade trumpet player who was first chair with two solos!  Words can't explain how freakin' proud I was of my band...I was no longer even that proud of myself...I got past that my junior year.  I was the leader...no longer obsessed with my own accomplishments.  It was all about the good of the band...or should i say my band?  The band was my responsibility now in many ways.

For the first year, we had joined the USSBA, so we went to the USSBA nationals instead of state.  Right before we went on the field, our director gave a big speech about how this would be the last performance ever for the seniors.  One of my good friends, who was a sophomore, looked at me sadly.  I could tell she was saying to me non-verbally, "We're going to miss you so much."  I started getting tearful...I never cried out loud, but the whole bus ride there, I was tearful and emotional.  This was going to be my last performance with my wonderful band, ever.  I was going to miss this so much.  

We didn't do so hot at nationals like we did the year before at state...I tripped over a guard flag and fell...but it was no big deal.  I really would have liked my last performance ever to be our best performance ever, but I didn't make a big deal out of it.  Our director didn't either because it wasn't like there was anything we could do about it now that the season was over.  It wasn't a big deal to me after I thought about it though.  Even though I was leaving and graduating, I knew the band itself would go on and hopefully get even better.  One of the underclassmen would take over my band captain and section leader position, and I would be ever so proud to see them running that band and winning competitions.  It's not about me; it's about the band.

I miss that band so freakin' much.  I miss that sense of pride I got when we played the show the best we could, regardless of whether we won or not.  I miss those priceless friendships I made.  I miss drilldowns.  I miss band camp.  Marching band was the one time I actually felt like I fit in and belonged somewhere.  I always felt, and still do feel, like an outcast in most situations.  But not in marching band.  It was the only time people actually admired and looked up to me.


RopinTexan RopinTexan
22-25, M
5 Responses May 12, 2009

I loooovvveeee marching band soooo much it can't be healthy lol. I've been an instructor at my old high school since I graduated. It never leaves you!

I've only done marching band 1 semester so far. I hadn't planned on doing it this coming fall, but my director offered me a scholarship that I really need. I do like it, but I also know it will never be the same. I certainly don't feel the closeness to the whole band that I felt in high school; I like most of the people but I don't quite belong like I did before. I guess I'll stick it out for the simple fact that it gives me something to do, and I do love playing my instrument.

Yeah, I wouldn't quit just to quit unless you actually dislike it, especially if you get a scholarship. I actually quit after I got a job and a girlfriend. I also didn't play for my own university, as we didn't have a football team. Another local university with a football team would let outside students join.

I can relate to this SO much! I, like you, tend to feel like an awkward outcast. My high school band was always the one place I felt like I belonged. That band truly was my second family in every way. 3rd block, every single day, for four years, was my sweet escape. Band camp, where we worked so hard but had so much fun. Football games, where the band cheered more than the fans and cheerleaders. Competitions, where we anxiously awaited to hear "1st place - Bluefield High School." Ah, those really were the days. It's the one thing I truly miss from high school. If I could go back and do it again, I would. Over and over. That's where I met my best friends. That's where I learned to come out of my shell. That's where I learned to work hard and never give up. That's where I learned to be me. I am also in my college's marching band now. And it's just not the same. I enjoy it, yes. But nothing will ever compare to my high school band experience. I also miss the competitions. That indescribable feeling of nervousness/excitement you get right before you perform, and when they are announcing awards. The pride you feel going home with a bus load of trophies and the satisfaction of knowing you kicked butt even if you didn't win. One of the best feelings I've ever had. I would not trade those memories for anything! :)

You just basically read my mind. I was in marching band in college for a year and a half as well, but it paled in comparison to high school marching band. I didn't really even care about it that much. I eventually quit.

Thanks for the comment, LibaD! Band was the highlight of my high school days! I truly am glad I didn't give up. I would not be the man I am today if I did. I now play for a college marching band (not for my home college because it doesn't have a football team), and it's fun too, but it's truly not the same. There are no competitions, which was my favorite part of high school band. Now it's just about football games, which I honestly couldn't care less about. It's still great to march and play at half time though. It's still worth it and enjoyable, but sometimes I do wish for those high school band days back...

I really enjoyed this. Perfect example of not giving up. Imagine if you would of gone ahead and quit right when things started getting bad. Then, you would not of found something you loved so much. I was friends with a lot of people from band, noone really understands how great band is. They don't understand all the hard work, of marching and playing. I like your optimistic outlook when it came to competitions. Great job, sounds like you had a blast!