Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Band Geek - Yeah, I'm Okay With That....

In just a short amount of time, I'll be headed back home to Pennsylvania.  Typically, I don't get to see many friends while visiting because, well...we all have schedules and places to be.  If it isn't a holiday or planned vacation trip, it's usually in and out - a few hours in one spot.  You've all gone home to spend time with family - you get it, right?  I shouldn't say that.  The last trip was for my grandmother's 85th birthday and we saw more family than usual....and it was a great visit.  I have a great family, actually.  Many cousins, aunts, uncles....even a sister.  Wait...especially a sister.  That ought to get me my Christmas kaleidoscope (long story)...and I digress.  The point is that, when headed home, there is little to no time for friends.  The next trip, though, is planned to allow for just that...and there's where the 'band geek' thing comes in to play.

Yes, I was in the band.  Six years, actually.  We, however, defied the stereotype of typical 'band geeks'.  We were THE big thing during our four years in high school.  It wasn't the football team.  If it had been, we might have taken a lot more grief for spending time in the band room.  No, we were the reason everyone had a good time for those four years.  We were the people that knew how to have a good time...because we were....well, really good.  Many of you will conjure up images of some seriously bad high school marching bands as you read this.  Let me throw out our stats from the four years my class was there: roughly 12 wins at area competitions, 2 state championships (out of about 30 competing bands), and 2nd place in our division (one of two divisions), 5th place overall in the National Championships.  Yeah...we were good.  Confident?  There was a bit of that, too.  Oh, and the memories.  Ah, the memories.  Not all good, mind you, but most of them are.  There was the trip to Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia our freshman year to compete.  We had been on football fields before, certainly, but walking out of the tunnel onto the sideline of the field there.....well, it was....HUGE.  Winning the championship that year only bolstered our confidence and allowed us an opportunity.  If I share it, I will certainly date myself...but I must.  Winning that show got us into the Bicentennial Parade in Philadelphia the next summer.  It was 1976...in Philadelphia....a seriously big deal.  We fared well the following two years, but there was no championship.  Then, our senior year we headed back to Philadelphia after being in Hershey, PA the previous two years.  It was, apparently, a great place for us - we seemed to perform better on a larger stage, I suppose.  As I said, most of the memories are great, some not so much.  We headed out that tunnel again three years later and while the astroturf felt the same, the mood was different.  My best friend's mother, Jane, was like a second mother to several of us and the band's biggest supporter. Scott used to joke that, while many of us talked about quitting band at one point or another, if he even thought about it, he'd have to leave town.  She'd hunt him down and hurt him.  She loved watching us perform and did not miss a show.  This year, though she was there with us, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We spent the morning at West Chester University going through a final practice.  As others sat and ate lunch before heading into the city, two of us sat on a bus with a pen and paper and wrote a dedication for her.  We, as a group, dedicated that final show of the year to her.  Not one person disagreed with the sentiments and our director, as he had on many occasions, let some of us lead.  it was, quite simply, one of the many life lessons we'd learned.  It was a performance, many of us still believe, that was the best of the year.  Though it was the last one she'd see, we made her proud, I think.  See?  Some good, some not so much.  That win also allowed us an opportunity - a 3:00 a.m. parade.  We got home late that Saturday (okay, early Sunday) and unloaded the buses about a mile from the center of town.  We unpacked the instruments, unloaded the buses, and headed into the downtown area...only to find throngs of supporters waiting.  It was pretty cool and something we still talk about.  We were there, we were part of it.  Sometimes, it's good to be a band geek.

Later the next year, we headed west on a train.  Yes, 140 kids got on a train and headed to Chicago where we eventually boarded our buses.  Looking back, I believe the parents were masochists.  Really?  140 kids on a school trip...for 10 DAYS?  Utter madness?  Nah...we were good kids and would never get in any.....okay, got to move.  A little afraid lightning might shoot through the roof just now.  Seriously, we weren't bad.  Typical high school stuff....from back then.  Not what they do now....goodness NO!  So...I digress again.  We boarded the buses and headed off to the first show.  You see, on our way to the National Championships, the director and staff scheduled us to compete in the Mid-Iowa Combine of Bands.  It was, literally, a week-long tour of Iowa with a different competition every night.  It was a blast. The schedule was always the same - get to the new town, practice, eat lunch set up by the parents group, then practice again in the afternoon.  Little time off before getting ready for the show, performance, then back to the school where we stayed to unfurl our sleeping bags or climb onto a cot set up in the gym.  We'd sleep until early morning, then head off on the buses again for another day of the same.  We loved it.  Tempers can get short and you can learn to get fairly irritated with people when you are with them in such close proximity for an extended period of time.  We did, too.  It never, though, carried over to a performance.  I have to say, it was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had and taught me a lot.

Most importantly, that was what we got from the experience - life lessons.  I say that because they stay with me to this day and I have passed them on to my kids and others.  One of the most important?  If you're going to do something, especially if you know it's wrong, take responsibility for it if you get caught.  Accept responsibility.  Period.  The other was how to manage and work with others.  To be taught these lessons at that age has proven to be invaluable.  We had student leaders when we first joined and they, in turn, taught us to do the same when working with underclassmen.  Yet another lesson that has served me well over the years?  It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong when performing any task - if you do it with enough confidence, you can fool many people.  Translation - if you look like you're supposed to be there, most will assume you are.  I'm telling you, it works.    Though we had many parents helping guide us in those days, we had a great director that taught those lessons.  Mr Brodie is humble to this day and may not willingly admit he had a huge impact on our lives, but he did.  He was a great teacher and, lo these many years later, we all still have great admiration and respect for him.  We will never be able to thank him enough.  So I will head home next week to be with friends of years gone by so that we can be there for the rededication of the field on which we spent many a Friday evening.  We will get to share memories, both good and not so good, as we sit and remember those no longer with us.  You see, we're getting to that age.  Several of those that marched with us 'back in the day' are gone.  We will remember them, too, as family because, well...that's what we were.  It was a fraternity and a bond we will always share.  I look forward to seeing those friends again...and reliving a few moments of a not-so-mispent youth.

Until next time.........

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