September 28, 2008
By Sarah Griswold, Davenport, IA

“Turn and face that way,” Mom says, pointing. “Get at the ready, and close your eyes, don’t think about what’s going on behind you right now, just think about what’s coming next, forget the judges are there and forget that there’s a crowd, just remember the moves, the music, the fundamentals, and march the best I have ever seen you do.” Okay, so he’s not really my mom, or anyone else’s mom for that matter, but we call him Mom sometimes when he’s not mad--hardly ever. In a way he is like our second mom, though. When he’s not yelling at us for screwing up, he’s the “Wow! You guys are doing great-- keep it up!” or the pep-talk-to-ease-our-nerves kind of guy.

We stand for several minutes with our instruments at our sides or down below us, our feet shoulder-width apart, our heads down, and our eyes closed. The girl next me is still talking and it’s not helping my nerves at all. This is my first competition and I’m more nervous than I thought was possible. A girl dressed in a sparkly purple, pink, orange, and yellow costume comes over and tells her to “Shut up, because Mom is trying to make the freshmen feel better, especially since this is their first competition.” After that if any given person were to walk by, I think they would stop and stare at us. Here was a group of some hundred and seventy high school students, dressed in ugly shoes, pants that come up to our waists, a jacket that says “Bettendorf” on the left arm, white gloves, funny hats with shiny things called plumes on top, and various musical instruments. And here we were standing all exactly the same, in four straight lines, dead quiet.

“Okay, let’s go,” Mom says and we all turn and start walking onto the track. We stop at the indicated line and go back to the stance we were in before. Then the girl in front of me turns around and whispers, “Concentrate on personal marching, watch one of the drum majors at all times and good luck. Pass it on.” I turn to the girl behind me, the one who had been talking, and whisper exactly what had just been said to me. Before I know it I hear everyone whispering the same thing to each other.

Mom is given the signal to have us move forward. He calls us to attention, has us mark time, and we move forward to the tap of a snare. “Good luck everyone, stay sharp,” he says as he runs to place the podiums on the field for our drum majors. We march to the middle of the track and start to peel off into our lines. A minute later we hear the signal from the drum line and parade forward; as people make it to their spots they turn and continue to mark time. As the snare finishes its rolls, we count for each other and go back to the ready.

“Are the judges ready?” the announcer asks. Something happens that none of us can see. “Are the drum majors, Olivia Moore, Olivia Day, and Jenny Longenecker, ready?” We’ve never seen it, but we know what comes next--the drum majors’ salute. We wait and we see Olive and Olivia sprint past us, whispering “Good luck--keep your eyes on us.” And that’s when it begins. The sharp clapping that has been ingrained in our memories begins and we hear Jenny scream, “Band ten hut!” As we snap to attention, the crowd takes in a sharp breath of surprise, because what we do is always so unexpected. “Go Dogs!” we scream so loudly that it’s quite possible our hometown two hours away could hear us.

Everyone’s eyes are on either Olive or Olivia as they conduct the first four counts. We all count quietly for each other and the show begins. For the next twelve minutes there are only three things to think about: remember the music, remember which move comes next, and march perfectly. As the first few measures after the duet pass, the nerves just wash away and we march, making perfect formations that awe the crowd. We stay in step and everything is perfect. Throughout the duration of the show we all help each other by giving directions. For a few moments in time, we become Mom, giving directions, correcting problems. All I have to do is remember to keep my chin up and my shoulders back. If I forget something else it doesn’t matter because someone will remind me. I hear the girl behind me counting a halt for me. A minute later I hear our section leader saying “20, 21, 22, 23, 24 HALT,” and then a girl in a line next to me, “Sing loud!” and then not a minute later, “Roll step!”

As the end of the show comes I continue to play and count; we move forward, horn jack, and it’s all over. Olivia turns to salute, turns back, marks time, and we turn to parade off the field. We march onto the track and pass the entire crowd, who are cheering and clapping all for us. Until that day I had no clue it was possible to feel so proud, to be so hot, or to be so scared.

As we go to change back into normal clothes, everyone congratulates each other on a good job. Later the awards ceremony comes and we find out we placed sixth of eight. No one is disappointed, though. We get onto our buses and Mom comes on. No one knows what to expect. “Good job, I know you did your best and this is certainly better than last year. We made it through and that’s the best I’ve ever seen you guys do this show. I couldn’t be more proud.” Everyone smiles and there is so much pride on that bus you could almost see it. “We’re going to go get dinner now. Have fun, relax, and then be prepared to do it again.” With that he gets off the bus and moves on to the next one.

“Turn and face that way,” Mom says, pointing. “Get at the ready, and close your eyes, don’t think about what’s going on behind you right now, just think about what’s coming next, forget the judges are there and forget that there’s a crowd, just remember the moves, the music, the fundamentals, and march the best I have ever seen you do.” Another competition, another show, Mom says the same exact thing, but every time it has the same effect. I’m calmer this time, but the nerves are still there. We march out to the track and perform as we did before.

Everyone congratulates one another and it’s back to the bus for a long ride home. Not even ten minutes into the ride and the bus is dead silent, everyone is asleep. We finally arrive at our school at one in the morning. Everyone is unbelievably tired, but it was worth it. Everyone agrees on that. Marching band is my family. Marching band is our family. We have so much love and pride for each other it’s beyond understanding. There is no one else in this world any of us would have done this for. This is my family.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Nov. 12 2008 at 9:47 pm
God. I wish sometimes i had a real family, i loved your story and i will vote everyday. You should continue to write.


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