Monday, October 24, 2011

March On By

Sitting in the shadows of towering pines on a raw North Carolina Saturday, the autumn sun setting low behind chilled metal bleachers as our boys struggle to keep from spilling hot chocolate on their lap blankets, the impending end to our first season of high school marching band lies only one week away.

Like many of the phases in the lives of parents, our introductory season as marching band volunteers in support of Our Daughter and her classmates came upon us with a bang, only this time the literal bang of a bass drum. The responsibilities ahead appeared daunting at first. Then, before we knew it, we were in the thick of things, learning as we went. Now that we feel as though we have finally figured it all out, it is time to forget everything we've learned and move on to the next phase.

If the hours and days dedicated to the marching band seemed long to us, they were twice as taxing for our diligent flautist. She learned to march in step with more than one hundred bandmates without missing a beat of the fifteen-minute program they all memorized. My Lovely Wife and I learned how to manage parking at band competitions, prep water stations, and set up pit equipment such as marimbas and drum major stands. We dedicated a few Saturdays and Friday nights. She forfeited several hours after school twice a week since the beginning of the school year. She had to choose between band and ballet. So long to toe shoes and "Nutcracker" recitals, hello to marching in the cold and rain on muddy fields.

The amount of preparation and work that goes into a single marching band performance at a single high school football game is remarkable. One week of summer camp for incoming freshman. Another week of summer camp for the entire band. Monday and Wednesday after school rehearsals until 6:00pm, if not later. Finally escaping home football games at 10:30pm, or returning from band competitions at 11:00pm, only to meet up with friends over tater tots and milkshakes at Sonic Drive In for another hour before wending wearily home.

I can say that while I will miss the activity, I'll appreciate the newfound down time. Frantic flurries of activity can be fun, but they are weak substitutes for quality time. The time has come for the kids to put down their instruments, shove aside the extra workload, and return to the already challenging task of being high school students.

And despite how impressed I have been with the quality of the music the band has created, I will not miss the "Sound of Music" medley they have performed so incessantly that they all surely must be afflicted by nightmares in which a green-and-gold clad Julie Andrews chases them across Austrian mountainsides with a Sousaphone. I've heard "Edelweiss" so many times it makes my butt itch. I can only imagine how the high schoolers who have to play it over and over must feel.

So, although an important chapter for our high school freshman is coming to a close, we will savor a final performance this coming Saturday as the marching band competes one last time. The friendships Our Daughter has forged will carry her through the remainder of the year. And before she even realizes it, we'll be driving her to the 2012 marching band summer camp.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

1 comment:

  1. I, too, was a marching band "chaperone." What I found was the stuff I heard, and the fun I was privvy to, was priceless. I would sit on the bus and pretend not to watch, pretend not to eavesdrop, but on those trips, I got to see my son in his "natural element." Although I know he would never had admitted he liked us being there, cheering him on, I know when he grew up, he appreciated our involvement.

    You also had the chance to see that "kids today" are not all rotten. There are lots of great ones...and sometimes, they're marching in formation to Edelweiss, resplendent in garish uniforms and plumed hats.