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An Alternate View
Get to practice at 8:45 am- like every Saturday. Grab your case and band bag
(no water bottle- it’s late October and you don’t need it). And start putting it together: Bell-Lower joint- Upper joint-Barrel- Mouthpiece. But no Ligature. No reed.
Because you’re not allowed to play. You dig through your bag- Search for that dumb dot book. The only one in your section that’s Incomplete. Because nobody really cares if you know the drill. You look around for the ribbon you had to tie it on your waist-Sydney borrowed it at practice- Yesterday.
Jill hollers- Time for Warm-Up Block.You run out, beating the flutes. Try to laugh with the others, and hand Jaddyn the extra pair of shades. Your cracked ones from last season. Stretch routine- you absent mindedly sing along. Then calf stretch time- Ahh! Feels sooo good! Joe comes out and starts lecturing and chastising the clarinets. You go through the motions: Forward 8 to 8’s, Box drill, Up-2-Back-1. Then they split it all up.
Yep. Time to go- they’re doing the drill that you haven’t gotten yet. Movement 4. You find the others-The sweet but serious flute – Maddie, the two saxes- Ryan and Kaylee, your Clarinet buddy- Angela, And the brass boys- Mitch and Donavon. Amanda, the drum major, heads over, and you all go to the other field- the crappy one without markings-not that you all really can tell- you’ve spent most of the season there.
She looks for a part of the lot that’s not being dominated by guard girls. Finally everybody heads to the back corner. Flip the field- and remember- the 30 is now the 50.
Back sideline is a hash. Go over that several times. Make sure it’s understood. Then practice the same sets- About 3 dozen times. Moving on. More repetition- no water- we have to work for it. Really work. We have no metronome. ‘Manda gets sick of the glock
and tosses it to the side. Where Kaylee trips on it. We count. Loud. We clap the counts for each set change, trying to remember that it’s 12-4-8-8-8-8-8-10 and figure out how to fix for the changes Bart and Barrometti made. Then we go over technique. Step sizes- again. Slides are a nightmare. Critique each other- As usual, one group’s harsher than the other. One of the guard girls comes over. We’re in the way. As usual. We move to the other side, and repeat. Then- lunch time!
After food, we go to an Attitude Session:i.e. Nap Time! Try hard not to feel left out the pep talk doesn’t work for members who’s sole purpose at the competition is to move equipment. You feel dumb. A failure. Pathetic and used. But not Valued.
Afternoon practice. There’s no room on the field or the lots. So it’s time for the Other Attitude Session. You talk, remind, and encourage. Try to figure out how you’re gonna deal with the pit tonight.
After dinner time your Parka bag. Hair is set with liberal amounts of gel, spray, and pins.because you don’t have a hat to cover frizz. Ride the bus with Tabs- sharing music and discussing lives.
Get to the school. Uniform time! You dig for gloves- The competition ones with no finger holes since you don’t take your horn out with you. You pull on pants and zip jacket Grab gauntlets and stuff them with handkerchief, pencil, and paper-Just in case. Run to the Clarinet Pow-Wow. Get hugged, and listen to Anthony give one of his famously odd speeches. Try to smile. Tell them good luck. Half way in, Matt tells you it’s time.
You and Angela round everybody up. Go to the pit. Look for your speaker, Move to the warm up. Get speaker lined up, plug it in. Then, stand in line with the others. Don’t move. Well, be as still as possible. You shush Donavon and Mitch- they’re laughing again. Listen to the sounds of the marimbas, the vibes, the guitars, and the synth. They play. You close your eyes and immerse yourself in the warm up music-Just A Little Longer (a.k.a- Not the Same), The C Major Circle,That one tune that reminds you of a Russian music box. They play the show. Matt Pence chastises and stresses. Then the volunteers come and say that it’s time to head to the field.
You unplug the speaker. And follow the line. You push the platform over the bumps and cracks, round a curb- back aches from bending down. Hate gravel, love smooth cement. Get to the field, stand on the track, nervous- as usual. You tell people good luck They also have worries. You tell them to relax and rock out. They always sound wonderful. Response: Smirk and rude comment concerning your status in the band. You walk away- blink back the tears and hold the anger that is beginning to warm in your stomach.
It’s go-time. You scramble to get the speaker into position, push hard against the resistance of the turf. Then put on a mask of calm. Stand on the side- at attention position. Listen to the announcer call your school’s name. Wrongly, of course- as usual. “Centerville Marching Elks” Urgh. You try to look calm, and watch the show. Listen carefully and study faces of the judges, knowing you will later be interrogated by section-mates about the performance. Crowd loves it, they cheer and dance along. Photographers wander. At the Shout Chorus, you do your best not to dance- it could get points docked from the score. You smile to yourself- proud just to just be a part of this Greatness.
It’s over. You snap back to reality and run to the speaker. Unplug it, and get a running start, knocking the speaker off its cart. You pick it up, and fix it on the go. Only a slight delay. The wheels had sunk into the rubber turf. Astro-turds fly as you scramble to get off the field before the end of the time limit. Stress levels everywhere rocket. You get back to the nice friendly pavement, breathing hard. Follow the line. Up the Hill ‘O Hell. It’s steep and long. You finally make it back to the Truck. Help put away equipment.
Matt hollers at you to get the alternates together, and demands “mallet order”. After 6 weeks, you still haven’t the slightest idea what this means. You look at him, confused. He just tells you to put them where ever. He doesn’t have time for this. The reserves just get in line, and walk in by twos. Matt huffs, and shouts in a clipped voice to shut up back there. You walk quietly to the field, furious about his treatment of your section. The award ceremony is nothing special. The Centerville Jazz Band streaks for AAAA- as usual. Grand Champion? Yep! Nothing new. You stand there, seething, through the whole ordeal, and quietly vent to friends, asking for help. No good. Matt is your elder and, not being on leadership, you have no authority whatsoever. Hot tears stream down your cheeks. This is what the hankie was for. Life sucks. So unfair. No voice, no power- your band experience is mix of anarchy and dictatorship.
Return from awards. Huddle up, and listen to Baker and Barrometti talk. Blah, blah, blah. You really have no desire to listen to this right now. You just want to scream. Or hit something. You run back to your cabinet and undress. Remove things from gauntlets. Don’t forget to take earrings off of jacket (They were tacked on to prevent losing them). Fold pants. Carefully placed on hanger. Hang jacket backwards. Again. Cabinet mom tells you to fix it. You do, then grab a handful of Nerds, Butterfingers, and Gushers. Yum- food. Then get into snack line. Shiver for a moment, standing there in t-shirt and leggings. Get water and paper bag of Oreo’s and Trail Mix. Hoist 50 pound parka bag onto shoulder, and run to bus. First on- again. Segregation because its dark out. Pick back for girls. Sit down, ride home. End of day.