Mark Time, March!

Last night I discovered a few pieces of my history online – on one of those very popular, social websites where free time goes to die. Flipping from person to person, link to link, I came across a video of my high school marching band in competition at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mi. 1984. And 1985, too.

Yes, I’m talking marching band competition. In the summer. All over the Midwest. 

We were no slouches, by the way. Our instructors, directors and style were straight out of Drum Corps. The guys who designed our show also designed for organizations like Phantom Regiment and Cavaliers, and founded groups like Star of Indiana  – all strong, top groups. Any corps music fan will know this means we weren’t your typical marching band. One year our field design was virtually identical to the Cavaliers. I guess it made it easier for the instructors. Why not? We worked our butts off, for hours at a time, 8 months out of year, all for a 5-week competition season that took us from Chicago to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. Some years the band went to several competitions in Canada and out to California. 

And we were good. And we won a lot of first place trophies.

I was fortunate because I played trumpet – lead trumpet too. That meant we only had to compete with the drum section for being the coolest, and compete with no one to have the best musical line and carry the show. (Ok, well, there were bagpipes involved, but I won’t go in to that, and sometimes they got noticed.) Still – the brass line was the place to be, and we had one of – if not the best trumpet line around. I look back at that and realize how good of a musician I really was, and had I stuck with music instead of going in to the theatre I could have done something with it. I don’t regret it though. I’m happy where I am. I’m doing something with theatre. 

And yes, sometimes I look back at that and feel a bit dorky and a tad embarrassed when it comes up in conversation. It’s probably why I haven’t joined that group on that social website where free time goes to die. I’d have to out myself to all my non-HS friends. I really shouldn’t feel that way though.

There are so many things those years taught me. Probably at the top of the list would be: team work, leadership and responsibility. Every person on that field plays a part – physically and musically. There was no slacking off – everyone needed to carry his/her weight. A dedicated, strong work ethic was needed to survive. Our director was tough and driven and expected the best out of us. He scared us. He loved each of us like his own kid. (His own son was the one he was hardest on. I always felt a little sorry for him to have to deal with his dad in front of all his peers throughout high school.)

The other things I learned: a little bit of artistry, a little bit of style, a little bit of…flair. Frankly, with these beginnings, I should be doing musicals instead of  “straight” theatre.

Watching that video was a real trip, and brought back a lot of memories. I still love the music and the sound of a good marching band or drum corp. A well arranged piece of classical music or jazz or blues? Big booming or smooth and quiet sounds, with lots of brass? Nothing like it.

It took me years to not walk in beat to any music I could hear. Occassionally on a summer evening I’ll hear a band’s percussion line off in the distance, maybe warming up or practicing for a competition or for a parade, or even in the Fall I can hear the local high school’s band at a football game, and I’ll get drawn back in to that feeling, that rush, that excitement of stepping out in front of a cheering crowd of hundreds or sometimes thousands of people filling the stands, all just as excited as us, and anticipating what we’ll do. It was a powerful feeling.

And no matter how the show went, we never marched off that field any other way but with our chins held high.

So, yea. I was in marching band. Jealous?


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