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6:20 pm. Already eight minutes late. And we are still on the sideline. Our patience is running out. Finally I hear the whistle. “Mark time mark, UP, one, two three, four, and step. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click…” We are silent. Smiling and marching. Percussion goes by. The announcer begins. Out flags are placed. My body subconsciously moves itself to my spot. Still smiling, I mark time, splitting the left 45 and 50 yard lines, four steps behind the front hash. Chin up, smile big, shoulders back, feet together, abs engaged, I am standing with pride.
“Drum Major, Joanna Miller, is the band ready?” is the announcement that interrupts my concentration.
“Band, ten hut!” our drum major has started our show.
“Hut!” we reply with our heads held high.
Our performance has begun. We step off with the check pattern-still smiling so big that our lips are quivering. We are thinking, knowing what’s next comes naturally. Our feet move with the music and end with a perfectly posed head drop. No guard ready move, no warning, the announcement starts. We switch quickly and professionally from flags to rifles anticipating the upcoming turn to the front and riflery routine.
N.O.J.A.C.K is running through my head. Natasha, Olivia, Jenny, Allison, Cassie, and Kara will perform not just spin. Natasha concludes her solo, and the rest of the guard turns to the right and begins to successfully exhibit their riflery skills to the audience.
As my lips are quivering and my hands are barely grasping my equipment, I keep my chin up. I am not performing for myself, for my mom watching from the audience, for our director, Mrs. Miller, or even for Jenny, our captain. I am performing for the hundreds of other band members mercilessly critiquing my skills being displayed.
The second song ends and my self-confidence has only increased. I count, “one, two, three, four, two, two, three, four, three, two...” and so on, for seven measures. The flutes and clarinets begin the melody, and one by one the guard rises with the flick of our ribbons. On the second refrain we spread out gently spinning toward our spots. I hear the first big hit, and I put on my smile. The wind is ferociously blowing my ribbon into knots around my body. I keep marching with my chin up. Just because I’m tangled in my reluctant ribbon, I’m not giving up. If I’m not doing it right, I can at least pretend I am. That’s what performing is about. And that’s exactly what I’ll do.
The last announcement tells us it’s time to switch flags. This routine is new to me. It’s only been in my brain for a few hours.
“Left, two, three, four. Right, two, three, four…” is the only thing I am thinking.
We promenade through the separated band.
The next 32 counts terrify me. If my steps are too small, I won’t make it all 52.5 feet. If they’re too big, I’ll arrive early, and that’s just as bad. But I’ve practiced this a million times. I know I can do it.
Lower your center of gravity.
Roll your feet.
Keep your chin pointed up to the press box.
Ten thousand thoughts try to distract me from my concentration. But I block them out. Now is not the time to celebrate. That comes later. For now all that matters is the ending of my performance. The rotations, drum breaks, and line drills are a breeze. Finally we conclude the show with the last note. “And down!” is my cue to pull my left foot in and stand at attention. As the announcer reveals our final acknowledgements and thank you’s, we parade off the field to the well-known Pine River Cadence. It’s over. There is no more we can do but watch remaining bands and wait 24 hours to hear the judge’s comments in class tomorrow afternoon.
It’s been almost two weeks since that night. And I remember it as vividly today as when it was happening. Cadillac Marching Band Exhibition 2012 has been my best performance to date. As a junior, I’ve felt the feeling of excitement, achievement, and pure happiness, when they call a Division I rating after the name of my school, twice. It’s a feeling that you would never understand unless you’ve been there.
I have been practicing this year’s marching show since August. Every day, at least a little. Sometimes I only had time to listen to the music and count. Other times I marched around my front yard like an idiot for hours until I was perfect.
The ride since Band Camp can’t be properly put into perception unless you’ve ridden it. We started with freshly painted lines and a few friendships here and there. But now, two months later, we are a marching band: a band who’s not forced to sit together but chooses to. We understand the common goal shared between all 43 of us. And we have worked our tails off to get where we are now. It is hard work to make time for something so time consuming. We’ve put more effort in this season than ever before. And according to our performance at the exhibition, it all paid off.