Lights Out

February 9, 2011
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“Band, Attend, Hut” yells the director, in a firm and serious manner. His face glistened with sweat on this steamy September afternoon.

“Regime” responds the band while snapping to attention. All eyes were straight forward and hearts were eager to perform.

*Tap, tap, tap* the drums buzz as the cue to take off has commenced.

The cadence begins. The Regime marches onto the field. Each shako two fingers width away from foreheads, plumes glistening and blowing in the breeze, and chains hanging perfectly still on bodies gliding across the field. The turf feels like ice beneath my slippery marching shoes, but I continue marching forward eyes dead center, legs straight, and feet rolling through each step, concentrating on posture and staying in formation.

The judging has begun. Before we can even play a note, eyes are watching us, judging us, making a first impression that will last throughout the show and even the season. Their eyes could tear though souls if looking directly at them, as they’re watching, just waiting for someone to mess up.

A company halt toward backfield and eyes are glued on the director waiting for cues to continue. The signal is given; horns are risen up into playing position. Sounds of buzzing bees and rambled music fill the stadium. With a serious look on his face the director raises his hands, and cuts us off. Time is up, the chaos stops.

“Opening set everyone. Lights out!” exclaims the director. He chooses to skip the pep talk this time, knowing that those two words will be all that is needed to perform to our upmost potential.

I walk to my first set. My eyes are closed as I arrive at my coordinates that correspond with the overall shape of the beginning set. I do a mental run through, going through every single set, every single detail in body movement and every single note that will need to be played at my best in order to make this performance one of my best.

Drum majors march their way to the front of the field. The announcement of the band is hollered over the stadiums speakers:

“Introducing the Marching Wildcats, under the direction of Don Lain and Tom Wallis. Drum majors, is your band ready?” He said our name wrong. We weren’t the Marching Wildcats, we were the Regime, but that didn’t stop us.

Drum majors salute and eagerly walk to their assigned podiums. They scan the field and patiently await the pit to get fully situated as it is the only time to do so. The members of the pit’s eyes lock with the drum majors cuing them that they are prepared for the show about to be performed.

With arms raised the show begins. My mind is racing but it’s focused on the task at hand. Eyes are always shifting between the drum majors hands, and the form, never looking down at my feet. Each set is deeply engraved in my muscles so that I know where I’m going, and when I have to move. Some many say that’s being on auto pilot, but it’s completely different. You have to constantly be aware of how straight your legs are, that your shoulders are square to the sideline, your fingers are in the right position to play the right part of the music; so many things are required to make the performance of the show your personal best.

The arms of the drum majors swing into a cut off; the first movement comes to a close. Each member of the Regime is standing at attention, sweat starting to form and fall from underneath the shakos, hearts are beating faster, and breathing becomes a bit heavier. All eyes are forward waiting for the count off to proceed to the second movement.

It begins, slowly. A chorale movement calls for graceful movement, careful judgment on step size and not accuracy. One wrong pitch and the whole chorale could be put to shame. The woodwinds legs move smoothly from set to set until finally they reach a stationary point. Big bell tones sound from a brass choir over toward the right of the field. Beautifully pitched, colorful tones embrace the audience. A single person stands up, cheering and clapping with delight. Soon after, others follow, congratulating the band on a flawless moment of the show.
Transitioning to the third movement is a slow one. The music flows in a chorale like state and gradually gets faster and more staccato. Though you can see the slightly tiring faces of the band members, they keep pushing forward, moving their legs and feet along with the hands leading them.

Five minutes have gone by since the beginning of the show, you would assume that each and every individual would drop from exhaustion, but that’s not they trained all summer to do. We conditioned our bodies in such a manner that they could take the extremes. From the slow small steps, to the fast and long ones that have you almost into a sprint across the field while staying square to the sideline and using impeccable technique. They’ve gone through it all.
As the show comes up on the final stretch, the drill gets harder and the music pairs up right along with it. We have to leave a lasting impression. An impression that says, we are here to stay and we are going all the way; one that says we will never back down.

The final note is played, as it echoes throughout the packed stadium. Tears along with a hug smile accompany the drum majors faces. The already impressed crowd cheers and claps louder, as if the whole town could hear what was going on at that particular moment. Faintly in the back round of all the chaos in the stands you can hear a band mom yell, “Go Regime”. If that wasn’t enough to put smiles on all the members of the bands faces, then the pure satisfaction of having a tremendous show would.

*Tap, tap, tap*

The cadence once again starts and each member turns to the left and starts marching off the field. My legs feel like fire, my heart is racing, and my lungs could explode, but I have to stay focused on getting off the field because they are still watching. Each tap meant your left foot was hitting the ground. I thought to myself, “Left, left, left. Left, left, left.” Repeating that until I was completely off the field and could follow the rest of the band in a relaxed position.

The utter joy of walking off the field after a performance like that is unexplainable, but to the people that surrounded me, we all understood. Nodding at each other, giving high fives and some even hug as we grasp this victorious moment.

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