Learning Lessons One Beat at a Time - My Experience in a Marching Band

Learning Lessons One Beat at a Time - My Experience in a Marching Band

Marching bands have a long tradition in the history of our country. The marching band at my high school is one that has continued to build on a long tradition over the years and is much to be proud of by its members. But the standards we have attained today have not just happened overnight: they are the result of many years of hard work, patience, and the idea that there is always more improvement that can be made.

The 2005 fall marching band season began as any other with band camp, learning the music and our show, and perfecting all of the minute details. We knew that we had to have our show mastered by the time the Luverne, Minnesota, competition arrived. Since it’s located only about 30 miles from our high school, this is the competition that all of our proud fans attend to watch and cheer us on as we compete against our biggest rivals.

Saturday, September 24, 2005, began as any other typical marching band competition day. We arrived at school early in the morning, dressed in our blue and white t-shirts, blue “jumpsuits,” and our polished white Dinkles. Our pressed blue and white jackets hung neatly in our garment bags and our hats were secured in boxes. Excitement filled the air as we gathered our instruments and crammed into the rickety old school busses. Roll was taken, and we were on our way at last. The forecast that morning had predicted a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm, but that was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

We arrived in Luverne and took our turn on the practice field. We then were directed to the Luverne High School and were herded upstairs to our changing rooms. We finished getting dressed and made sure our uniforms were flawless. When we were finished, we headed out to the grass in front of the school where we did a few warm-up exercises. And then it was finally time to prepare for competition. We found our positions in two lines and walked to the staging area. Last minute encouragement was given and everyone began to get pumped up. We were so busy worrying about our competition that nobody seemed to notice the dark clouds that were slowly rolling in. And then one of the workers at the competition opened the gate so we could prepare to go on-field. We walked inside the gate and lined up next to the goal post. We were called to attention by our commanders and with that, it was show time!
We stood proudly at attention.

“The next performance will be the Marching Wildcats from West Lyon,” boomed the announcer’s voice. The conductors gave a signal to the percussion members who quickly began pounding out the cadence. “Forward march!” commanded a conductor. The left feet of the band lifted, stepped forward, and came back down. Then the right feet lifted, stepped forward, and came back down. And with that we were on our way across the green expanse of grass, ready to give a performance that would blow the judges away and send that first place trophy right into our hands. But as we marched onto the field, the dark, gloomy clouds above us seemed to be marching in at an even faster pace. We reached our positions and calmly turned backfield for our on-field warm-up. We saw a small flash of lightning and small prayers quickly arose: “Please don’t let the judges see that.” We played through our warm-up, and then came the words we hoped we wouldn’t have to hear: “West Lyon, we’re sorry but we must ask that you exit the field immediately and return to the school due to the incoming storm. We will keep everyone posted on when the competition will resume.” The frustration emerging from the band must have been enough to set the storm clouds off because we had barely entered the school when the rains began pouring down.
We were again herded upstairs and told to just hang tight until the storm passed. But how were we ever supposed to be calm when we had just been torn away from our show? The thunder booming outside seemed to match the feelings of the band members. And the lightning flashes matched the anger that flashed in our eyes. The air in the school had been warm when we had entered, and the temperature seemed to be rising every second with nearly 100 bodies smashed into a tight space like a can of sardines. The world seemed to be closing in around us, and we were all desperate for fresh air. But we were told that we all had to stay together in case they came in for us. Through a nearby window we were able to watch the rain pour down, and it seemed as if the heavens had completely opened up and were dumping all of their water down on us.
About this time, our stomachs started to gurgle and groan. And to make matters worse, the tempting scent of fresh pizza was rapidly drifting up the stairs and finding its way right to our noses. We were forced to sit there in complete torture for a half-hour before our directors finally decided to appease some of our stress by allowing us to fill our very empty stomachs. We madly chased down the pizza vendors and merely seconds later were devouring delectable slices of gooey pizza. A short while later the rains finally abated and we were quickly assembled together once again. We adjusted our uniforms, which by this time were a little wrinkled, and prepared to go back outside.

We marched back onto the field and performed our show, sloshing through mud and water. We claimed second place that day and, despite our disappointment at not claiming first place, we were glad we had not placed any lower. But as we reflected on the lessons we had learned, we realized that the day had not been in vain. We had left West Lyon that morning prepared for on a sunny day that would go as planned. Instead we were taught that plans are made to be changed and that life often throws curves. When we were cramped up inside the high school in Luverne and steaming with frustration, we were taught the necessity of patience during trying times. And we also were hoping on claiming first place that day. But while we didn’t succeed, we were taught that nothing is ever finished, and there is always more work to be done.