literature

Marching Band

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godoflostsouls's avatar
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Let me tell you, I know Hell.  Hell is a place of unbearable heat, where hopeless souls are forced into meaningless labor, in this particular case, walk around in bizarre patterns while playing instruments.  In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about High School Marching Band.  I had been absolutely apposed to the idea of marching band, because it wasn’t required for my level of band.  Additionally I really sucked at playing Clarinet when I was sitting still, despite my seven years of it prior.  Unfortunately for me, my parents were dead set on making me go.  Now as anyone who has ever been a kid before, knows about the Parental Override Switch.  It’s a small switch installed in every decision we make until the age of eighteen that a parent can switch to whatever they want you to do, and try as you might to switch it back to whatever you want, the switch will never move.  So was the case in my decision about marching band.  
A few specifics on Hell:  Hell was mid-August, from 8:00AM to 2:00PM for two weeks and then the last two weeks they added a practice session from 6:00 to 9:00, then a two week break and then school.  During school we had after school rehearsals and mandatory competitions and home games.  
The first day was for Novices, which was me, all the other freshman, and any idiots that got roped into it after they already seen what it was.  There is one thing that no one ever misses about the east coast.  It is the thing that makes the dinkiest bit of heat or cold completely unbearable.  Humidity.  It makes the summers Incinerating, and the winters frozen.  In the summer you can walk outside and the thermometer will say 70 degrees and as soon as the door opens, you’re hit with this wave of heat will hit you, and you gasp for breath because you don’t have gills, and then your body reacts with a tsunami of sweat.  And this particular first day of Hell was especially wet, and hot.  In fact, we were having code red and orange days the whole time.  Life had become stew, a steaming, boiling stew of sweat, bees, sun, water, and music, and I was nothing more than a chunk of potato.  I didn’t have any say in the stew, not like the beef, I was just there as filler, and that’s what I did.  I never learned the music, I just faked it, hoping with all my heart that no one noticed, and if they did, they wouldn’t care.  It seemed like eternity that we marched every day that summer.  I remember counting the time between water breaks.  One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand…   Then it would come, a little slice of salvation.  But by the time we got to the water coolers, the water tasted like plastic, and salt from people sticking their hands in to get ice.  Still, we gulped it down with zeal, and lounged.  Now being a freshman, I knew no body there, and so I sat by myself, until one day.  I was sitting there one day when this guy walks up and sit next to me on that burning curb.  I recognized him from eighth grade.  He used to laugh at me as he rode by on his bike on our way to our houses.  I used to sit and wait for a friend and we would walk until we got to her house, and then I’d keep going.  He’s laugh at me as I waited at the bottom of a hill next to the school.  Now he sat next to me.  We conversed, and eventually became friends.  I now had another potato to complain to about the stew.  
Now there’s something very odd about the idea of marching band, and that is since it’s not really a display of how militaristic we can be, the drill designers try to be creative.  Designing drill is a job for only math thinking people, because it has got to be the most god-awful job in the world.  You have to put over a hundred little numbered dots into a design, and them move them to another design, all while making sure that the people will physically be able to do it, and in the amount of time there is in the music.  It’s simply the worst job I can imagine, I would, in fact, rather shovel dead babies with a pitchfork than write drill.  So, now I tell you about the drill we had to do.  First off, it had a series of unrelated songs, most without recognizable names, as is everything in the band world, but in the known repertoire was “Old Man River,” and “Turn Turn.”   Because of “Turn Turn” the drill designer though it would be clever to put in a peace sign, but that’s not all, he also had to turn it.  We worked on that the whole season!  It became the very symbol of evil in the world, and then after we turned this thing, my end of it (with me on the end, which is the most visually vulnerable spot) had to break off and almost run into a straight line perpendicular to the bleachers.  Do we get a second to think now?  No!  We have to, in a split second, march straight backwards, horns pointed up to the press box in this line. Now just to give you an idea of why this is bad, I will explain it.  When you’re marching backwards, you can’t see if the people behind you are ok, and you’re marching towards them.  To worsen it, we were all half a step from each other.  Now one step is an exactly eleven inches from heel to toe, I can still do that to this day.  So, we’re close together, tired from the run, and the drill previous to this, and we’re depending on a first-year to match perfect or else an entire line of Clarinets Domino on top of each other and get their horns stuck up their throats.  I’m lucky to be alive today.  
I survived that last month of summer, and I learned the value of sleep.  We went through and had a mediocre season, though our drum line won first place every competition.  Now after all this, you must think that I never set foot on that parking lot or football field again in my life, but I got news for you.  I did.  I loved the competitions.  I loved the bus rides.  I loved the home games.  In short, I loved the band, but not the marching, and I repeatedly went back to Hell for two more years until my job got in the way, and even then I went every home game.  I met the best friend I ever had in marching band, and he used to laugh at me.  I think that’s what kept us such good friends, we never took each other too seriously.  I honed skills that have helped me the rest of my life.  I learned to walk smoothly, and I can still walk with a camera and it looks like it’s on wheels.  I learned to put up with uncomfortable things, like heat, fatigue, and hornets buzzing around your head and landing on your back.  I made friends with an elite group of people that even the normal band couldn’t relate to.  You can always tell who was in marching band after a concert, because they were the only ones that would change into street clothes out in the open in the band room instead in the bathrooms.  In short, it was the best experience in my life… but it was still Hell.
This is a personal narrative I had to do for ENG 122 this year. I just finished it, and so I thought I put it up and hopefully get some feedback.
© 2003 - 2022 godoflostsouls
Comments16
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shybaby63080's avatar
I gotta admit, I love band camp. We stick together like one big screwed up family. We talk about each other with other band geeks, but if outsiders make fun of us, we are set to kill. Ive had the drumline stand in front of me like a barricade when someone was being mean. Some of the best things about camp are some of the worst too, but when your playing it just makes things feel worth it :)
MarimbaHeart's avatar
This has a great ending :D and I totally agree
blackmaraiah's avatar
But I would be lost without marching band...
firesoftheworld1's avatar
im in band and im a bari sax. this is all tue. i have been in band for 4 years and i have always remembered the performance you will forget all those 9 am to 5 pm practices and youll forget all those after school sectionals but NEVER will you forget those performances or those goofy band kids. i will be graduating this year and i will say i will always be remembered as a band kid and as my dad said at 50 years old you never will forget what you did out there on the field proving that cheerleading is not a true sport and band isn't a class its a lifestyle. once your in your family no matter how old you are. i have a friend who is 45 and he told me all about his band and the show they did then he was 15. never forget the people at the football games are only there to see the band at half time and see how we truly are the best kids in the school. i will never for get my first feild show sophmore year, we did fantasmic, the first feild show we ever did at my school, we might have taken home 2nd place but in our hearts we won 1st in everything. THE FEW... THE PROUD... THE BAND GEEKS... WE WILL RULEOUR SCHOOLS... after all who likes the football jock or the cheer leaders.. band is family now and forever! never forget...

i almost cryed because it is all true! and on top of it band is a place where you are always family no matter how much you deny it. you cant walk into math and tell them about how much you cant wait to learn a new skill but in band... you can tell how much we mean to eachother. and at every graduation you cry because you will miss those brothers and sisters of the family you learned to love. even when you say you hate one of the other band kids you cry when they walk across that stage at the end of a year no matter what happened to make you hate them they are a part of your family and team. never lose your family. i will always be there to see the next set of kids join our family. my sister was in the same band i was and is now married to the boy who sat next to her for four years as a friend and brother and they started dating sr year, after 7 years of dating they are now going to have little band geeks of their own. and they will understand their kids and help them in their band. maybe take every saterday 9 am to 5 pm for 3 months like our parents did for us. we will always have those kids who joined the band cause the school didnt know where to put them. but remember they might end up playing better then you one day. so please join our family no matter where you go to school. your family in our band. i am going to laguna creek high school and am best friends with a guy who goes to the school our school hates but we are in band and can see past the hate and make it so we see who can do better. always remember we are family. so no matter where you live if you see this give your band family a hug next time you see them and tell them thanks for being a member of the family and team. we will always listen so if you have a problem tell the band they will help. or tell me ill see what i can do.
WriterOfWolves's avatar
Parting is a sweet sorrow, and marching band is a sweet agony :XD:
Aura-Chimera's avatar
Whoo! That's, like, my exact view of marching band! Awesome writing!
BlackRoseBandKitsune's avatar
thats what band is, sweat, pain, hell and way too much fun than should be permitted xD
invadrzina's avatar
This is why we can't explain why we love marching band. Because the bad parts are basically all the good parts too. And if we told people that, they would never join!
Joanatha's avatar
Great personal narrative. I've featured it here: [link]
Marlyyn's avatar
ohmagod so very true! i thought i was going to DIE during band camp. it only took me 2 days to figure out the directors schedule for those GLORIOUS water breaks. I learned the value of using my ass too (to sit down)
Kayaki-chan's avatar
that pretty much sums it up, although you left out alot of the good parts of band, like sectionals with your crazy section and geeking out with other marching people about the cavaliers and vanguard and fantasizing about getting to do amazing effects in a field show and delighting in how none of the other band people have any idea what your are talking about........sigh im doing marching band right now and i absolutely love it....
Freakaru's avatar
oh dear, you make it sound miserable. Though it sounds like your band doesn't have it that bad. Our bandcamp goes from 9 am to 9 pm for 3 weeks in August. Not to mention the during school practices twice a week in the evenings then the wonders of constant sectionals. Being a section leader, I really enjoy those ;P.
Anywho, I'm so glad you captured the torment that we go through and how strange it is that we all love it so!!! :P
You forgot to mention that we pay them to let us do all of this. hehe.
Anywho, really enjoyed reading this!
asapphiremist's avatar
OMG..............yes, marching band can be total hell, after seeing this in Tapestry's page I had to come read it (I'm one of her section leaders) omg...I know exactly what you are saying, so I absolutely have to plus fav this simply because I can relate so much! (besides that fact that it is well written) "that even the normal band couldn’t relate to." That line is soooo true... it takes a certain breed of person to be in marching band. I very well done!
Wow, I'm so glad you mentioned this in your dj, so I would therefore have more of a push to come read it. This is an excellent piece. I can actually hear you telling this story, as though you were talking to me over the phone. Certain phrases are just so you, and I'm so glad you use them in your writing too, it makes it very strong. (the various "I'll tell you why"s, etc.) Thogu I was never in marching band, you capture it perfectly, I'm sure, and the last distinguishing note between the marchers and the non is so true. You convey the feeling of band so well. And your last sentence....yeah, it's absolutely perfect. It has your voice, your tone, and it is just...perfect.
Obviously those who know you know who you meant by your best friend, but I was curious as to why you left his name out. I'm trying to visualize it in there, because I was going to suggest you mention it, but I'm not completely sure. It's probably just as fitting with as without. The name makes it more...expressively personal, but without makes it less "all about me," if that makes any sense-it's more jsut capturing the feeling of marching band. I completely know what I meant by that, but I dunno if I said it right....ask me if you need to.
Anyway, this is a truly excellent piece, and actually, I think it's my favorite prose of yours as of yet. Because it is so much your own story, and yet it touches on the parts of band that all who do anything in it can understand. It's universal, and yet completely personal. It's beautiful.
tapestryforever's avatar
so awesome, and so completely true......^_^.....hafta +fav.....
my band's rehearsal schedule this week, three hours tonight, game tomorrow, nine to four saturday and then we get sunday and monday only off! it's pure insanity! but rather fun in it's own way.....
yay tenor saxophones......great piece, bye bye for now.....
driftwood86's avatar
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha haha I dig parental overdrive switch. Iiiiiiii have parental overdrive switch.

It sucks.

Very nice, very awesome, I enjoyed it

-Katie-
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