by Audrey Payne | copy editor
A lot of people ask me why I’m so obsessed with band. “It’s a cult,” they say, or “Your entire life is band,” or even “You’re torturing yourself with those crazy marching band hours!” Well, these accusations are kind of right. We spend almost the entire month of August on the band pad at school, and it doesn’t stop once school starts. If you’re looking for a band kid, you can probably find us in the band hall, whether we’re practicing, doing homework, or making inside jokes that you likely won’t understand.
Most non-band people would probably quit their extracurriculars if they faced the conditions that we subject ourselves to every year. Seriously. Marching band is out in the 100 degree heat for 12 hours almost every weekday in August, and 8 hours of rehearsals a week continue when school starts. You want sleep? You want to do homework? Just kidding, you have to run out to the band pad and exercise, play music, and get sweaty for two hours before you even get to see your bedroom. If you’re in the top band, you have two hour rehearsals after school twice a week even after marching season is over, and all bands have pass offs, where you risk your life and dignity by playing your band music by yourself in front of your band directors. Unless you really, really love what you do, you’re going to run away. Far, far away, and probably never come back. However, there is a reason that we band kids keep coming back to rehearsal. We may have rough days where we want to give up, but there are so many rewards to becoming a band member.
If you joined band freshman year like I did, you’re in for a rough wake up call. Everyone is going to play their instrument better than you, everyone is going to march better than you, and everyone is definitely going to know what they’re doing, while you’re wandering around the field staring at your set chart like it’s written in a foreign language. August might be a teary month for you. But, you also made a wonderful decision. Being in band saved my life freshman year, because when I was stumbling around like a lost puppy on the field, there were older kids who showed me where to stand. When I got lost in the halls once school started and was terrified that I would never find my way to the band hall without a map, the band kids who had helped me figure out where to stand on the field helped me find my way. I came to rely on these people, and I was invited into an entirely new group of friends that I wouldn’t have been a part of without humiliating myself for a month on the band pad.
We also come back to rehearsal because we love making music. Even though high school band is a much greater challenge than, say, middle school band to undertake, we refuse to put our instruments down because band is the place where we cooperate with fifty other people to create something beautiful every single day. Our head band director, Jarrett Lipman, spoke to us one day about the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” and talked to us about the importance of “playing the sunset.” Music is not only playing the right notes; if you don’t invoke an emotion from your audience, if you don’t connect with the music you’re playing, you’re doing it wrong. When we play the big hit of our marching show in the Alamodome at BOA San Antonio, people cheer and we can feel it. It’s the most incredible feeling in the world to know that you are part of a group that can make people jump out of their seats in excitement just by playing and loving music.
A huge amount of what I have learned in band isn’t even related to music. When you get four hours of sleep every weekday for about three months due to homework and rehearsals, your options are to learn time management or die. Hopefully you choose the time management option, because you will learn a skill that sticks with you your whole life. If you don’t do your job in band, whether you are a lowly freshman or the well-respected head drum major, you will suffer the consequences, so we all are fed large spoonfuls of responsibility, teamwork, and respect during our band careers, which saves you from making mistakes in the future because you haven’t learned those values. It’s always better to make mistakes when you have the cushion of high school instead of getting fired from your job after college because you don’t understand how to treat your boss or show up to a meeting on time.
Even though it’s “not all about winning” when you go to compete, it feels so good to win. For a lot of people, that is why winning BOA San Antonio, one of the most competitive marching competitions in the country, in the 2014 marching season is their favorite memory of marching band- because they got to have victory celebrations for the first time. Winning our first BOA competition this year was incredible, and winning the BOA Super Regional for the first time this year just about made everyone’s faces become waterfalls of joy, especially because we are a school that is only seven years old. It’s pretty great when the band’s blood, sweat, and tears pay off in a shiny medal, the tears of friends and family, and an encore performance that none of the band members are likely to forget.
Despite the endless long nights, the exhausting rehearsals, the stressful pass offs, and the never ending responsibilities, band is so much fun. We have the time of our lives getting to know each other, going to football games, and competing together. Football games create so many memories, because we are there for the sole sake of supporting the football team and having fun. That’s it. We sing, dance, and party, even if we don’t understand how football works at all. Going to rehearsals for two hours after school isn’t always seen as a burden, it’s an escape from your responsibilities and an excuse to procrastinate! We leave all of our problems of the day behind as soon as we step on the band pad, and focus only on improving ourselves as marchers, performers and people. We spend more time with the friends we make in band than we do with our own family members during the marching season, which creates an entirely new family to rely upon. It’s hard to forget putting on your uniform, putting your instrument together, pulling on your shako, and taking the field with hundreds of other kids that have been through the same struggles as you. Traveling on charter buses in the dead of night to and from competitions seems exhausting (and it is), but when you’re with your band family, even traveling seems like an adventure. Even though we’re harassed for being a cult, constantly missing classes for band-related functions, and stressing about the upcoming competitions, band is a group that supports the family wholeheartedly. If hard work, lots of responsibility, stress, sunburns, exhaustion, and a new set of friends doesn’t sound like fun to you, you probably don’t belong in the cult.