This is a scene that plays out Friday nights at high schools across the country. Starting at the beginning of the school, marching bands take to the field. Last Friday night was our homecoming.
Watching the Penns Valley marching band brought back a flood of memories! The weight of the band uniforms, our mandatory white bucks, the smell of metal of the instruments, the autumn air so crisp that it seemed it would shatter. I can still hear our band director, Mr. A's, commands to keep in step, stay in line, keep it straight. He may have been small in stature but he was a giant in his love of the band and his dedication to making us the best we could possibly be--or at least have straight lines.
There were so many of us - all the instrument groups were represented--at least it seems now anyway. We had a head majorette who threw (and caught) flaming batons along with at least 10 other majorettes in their sequined brown and gold leotards, we had flags, we had pompoms--the Rockettes who, if I remember correctly were at least as large in number as the band. We knelt poised at the side of the field just waiting for the seconds on the scoreboard to wind down--and then we would run out onto the football field to present our halftime show. Mr. A must have spent hours crafting our shows and then drafting them so that they were easy for use to follow. Proud Mary and Smoke on the Water were our standards and to this day, whenever I hear either of those songs I am transported back 30 plus years. Our band was proud of the show formations and manuevers we practiced and practiced throughout the season. We were something.
Marching bands are quite noticeably smaller these days. The band for the visiting team at the football game last Friday had only a handful of instrumentalists--barely enough to be heard in the stands. They had 2 flags and no majorettes at all. The bands are shrinking each year due to lack of interest in the arts, lack of funding, lack of parents to drive the kids home from practice and maybe, a lack of the popularity associated with other activities.
Back in the 70's, playing in the band was a surefire route to being called many things - none of them compliments. My kids now are way more strong than I was at their age - I caved to the pressures of high school and dropped out of the band. I am so happy that I have two aspiring marching band members who are old enough to know that playing in the band may not be the path to popularity but love music enough not to care.
At our homecoming game, the junior high kids including my daughter were able to join the marching band on the field for the pregame show. I watched my daughter walk with pride out onto the field in front of hundreds of football fans. This really mattered to her. You could see the concentration on her face--so careful not to walk too fast, or too slow, glancing left and right to stay in line.
Mr. A would be proud.