Friday, October 24, 2008

Marching band - A way of life

I took a different route to work this morning, and on my way passed by a sight that took me back in time: the local high school marching band was practicing. They were in a local park next to a very busy road, giving them an ever changing, yet ever present audience to show off their evolving formations and semi-rehearsed songs.

All through middle and high school I was a bit of a band geek. I played (and still play, sort of) both the cornet and the trumpet. First the cornet, as that is what my brother played. Then the trumpet, as it turns out only my brother played the cornet.

Where I went to high school, marching band was a big deal. If you wanted to play in the regular band, you had to play in the marching band. As a result, we had just under 200 kids in the group, which in a school of 800 is significant. Our band leader was a traditionalist, favoring old standards (“Old Man River” comes to mind), rather than the more contemporary stuff (“Eye of the Tiger” comes to mind, as, after all, it was the late 80’s/early 90’s). And we always stayed in long straight lines, unless we broke off into lines of eight people to make circles. This was cause for lots of teenage angst, as we wanted to be the cool marching band (think “Drumline”), but we did what we were told.

What we lacked in panache we made up for in numbers.

I think I could still do some of the routines if pressed. I could certainly play several of the songs, along with our fight song and alma mater.

A highlight each year was going to the annual Marching Band Festival, held at Hofstra University. It was a total showcase of good, clean dorkiness, and we took it very seriously. Extra rehearsals (two a days!), extra practicing at home, lots of chatter in the cafeteria…

It was a televised event.

As the biggest band, we often went last, and we stormed the field each year with our time-honored entrance of running on to the field in precise steps, with eight steps equaling 10 yards. Each step was counted off in a mumbly way, except for when you hit each 10 yard line and the final stop, at which point you shouted.

If you can imagine, it sounded something like this:
ONE two three four five six seven eight
TWO two three four five six seven eight
THREE two three four five six seven eight
FOUR two three four five six seven eight
DOWN!” (<-- = stand at attention)

The hometown crowd loved it. Man, those were heady days.

Oh – the uniform. As with any marching band, that was a critical component. Ours were a bit brutal – dark green wool pants, matching blazer, a thick vinyl overlay for the jacket with a big “H” across the chest. Plus, a stiff green and white top hat where the requisite tall plume was attached. And white gloves. It was head to toe boiling hot, particularly on Memorial Day, where we marched in the hot sun for hours.

I will say that the polar-ready uniform did come in handy in the winter months. For example, we played at a Jets game every few years (see where marching band can take you?) and I remember it being particularly frigid there. I am sure I had some sort of hot-coals-in-my-pocket contraption to keep my fingers from chipping off my hands.

I went to look up the uniforms to show you what I mean, but apparently they’ve changed it up a bit. Here is what they look like now. Lucky them.


mindy said...

ok, just exchange maroon for green in this entry and you have MY marching band experience. Some of the best days of my life. An old high school friend recently wrote on my facebook page something like "The other night I went outside and it smelled EXACTLY like a Friday night game". I got a little misty-eyed. Good times, for sure.

Jordy said...

Wow - one of the top HS's - and nifty uniforms. My brother was a band geek ... I was all sports. So for me, that scent of autumn conjures the clashing of field hockey sticks. Love reading your posts ... and would especially love any tips on how you fit BOTH running and blogging into your day. I used to run (somewhat regularly) - but it has definitely dropped out of my daily repertoire since I developed this blogging habit/obsession!

Jodi said...

Jordy - run first. The blog posts will come to you en route.

Mindy - when are we going to do a duet?