October 10, 2007
By Marie Ragle, Jenks, OK

Pre-Band was a chilling cold slap across my tender cheek. All through middle school I had been the best and only good French horn. Now I was the freshmen, competing against a four member brigade of upperclassmen that have played longer and harder than me. I might have handled that better, if I was allowed to play horn.

One can’t march holding a French horn, so we have to play a different instrument during marching season. Mellophones are large trumpet shaped brass instruments that use the horn mouthpiece. I was taken aback when I realized that I would have to learn to play one. I stand by my first impression: they are garbage cans with mouthpieces. It was hard and awkward playing it, but I had it under control.

What I couldn’t handle was marching. So many commands and moves seem impossible! March one way and face another! March backwards and face 180 degrees the opposite direction! Move ten yards in twelve steps! For the first time in my band career, I was positive I couldn’t do something. My world swirled together, and the frustration I encounter on subjects such as science and sports encroached into my musical confidence. I sucked at marching.

For two weeks I marched and played for six hours daily. This doesn’t include the indispensable individual practice I did at home. I got better, but definitely not at an exponential rate. Some of the freshman dropped out. Sure, I had considered it, but I love playing. I want to play for the rest of my life, to make a career of it and play. So I stuck with it.

Three months later, I’m still not a good marcher. But I can march, and do march. My school just won third place at a contest, and it feels good. I don’t know how or when I became proficient. If I did, I would illustrate that moment to you. Since that pre-band sting has lifted, I’m ready to own the next contest. The moral of my tale is to stick with whatever you are struggling with and put your shoulder to the wheel until you can get it down. Besides, the next year, you can always laugh at the Freshmen…

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