Saturday, September 4, 2010

A self-professed band geek.

I absolutely love this time of year. Not because of the weather or the trees changing colors or the hordes of students about to descend like a plague of locusts. I like this time of year on a college campus about three weeks before classes start because of band camp. The marching band is back and they're practicing. Right now it's just the drum line. They're working their butts off learning their parts before the rest of the band comes back. If the drumline is tight, the rest of the band learns quicker. They were outside last Friday practicing in sections. I went out on my break and listened to them for a bit. When I left work THREE HOURS LATER they were still outside practicing. Yesterday morning they had all the sections together marching around campus. I went out and followed them around for a few minutes. Yes, I'm a band stalker. Hey it's my coffee break!

If you don't think marching band kids work hard, you're outta your mind. And the drumline works harder than any section. Why? Because they never stop playing. They play the cadence that everyone marches to, then everybody plays a song, then back to the cadence. Imagine going for a walk. Now imagine you're wearing a backpack with 40 pounds of rocks in it on your front. Now imagine your carrying a can of soup (1/2 pound) in each hand and clapping them together the entire time. Now imagine every 5 minutes you have to insert dance steps. Now imagine doing that for two to three hours while dodging potholes and horse manure. That's what marching in a parade as a percussionist is like.

Honestly I always wanted to play drums. My last year of high school I got to play bells for marching band. It was a blast, despite having to carry the extra weight. The entire rest of my musical career I was stuck with the sliver-suckers. I got to march in an honor band for the Cotton Bowl Parade one year, and let me tell you that was extra hard work. We practiced for two days learning our songs in July. Then we had 6 hours of practice on a 90 degree day in August, THEN marched in a two hour parade the same day. We lost 20% of the band to heat exhaustion. A good chunk of that was the flag section because they practiced all day in the sun, but we took my sister to the ER on the way home too. (I think the directors learned something that day, and they didn't have a repeat the next time.) The Cotton Bowl parade itself was over New Year's, so we practiced for two days outdoors in 20 degree weather in Iowa in December. Dallas weather was a treat after that.

I just can't help tapping my feet when I hear them go by. Remember the next time you see a parade or a halftime show, think about the band for just a second before you go get your popcorn refill. Those musicians spent just as much time practicing as the football team did. They're learning formations too, and working just as hard.

Go Band!


photo courtesy of Northwestern University Archives