Friday, September 3, 2010

How the high school marching band saved me

Two of my teenagers started high school this year and one of them plays clarinet in the marching band and one plays trumpet in the jazz band. We attended the season's first football game last night and it was thrilling. Not just because we won (34-8) but because of the halftime show. I had more fun watching that 4 minute performance than I have any Broadway show or Oscar-winning movie.

When it comes to high school, most adults I know carry very polarizing memories. Either they loved it or hated it. For me, high school felt like this huge stage on which I worked out my most intimate, awkward, and confusing issues, most of which centered around fitting in. My struggle might not have been apparent to those around me, but there was definitely an apocalypse happening on the inside.

One of the things I am most grateful for during that time was my experience in the marching band. I started playing trumpet in the 5th grade and wanted to quit by 7th. My mom talked me out of it and I will be indebted to her forever for that pep talk because it saved me. For four years, I was an integral part of a 160-member club - the band geeks. We stood proud in our glorious nerdness because we knew we had back-up. I might spend 6 classes a day orbiting the perimeter of the cool crowd, but when I walked into that band room, I was home. I belonged. I was friends with every trombone player, drummer, and french horn player. We got each other. Other kids might have perfect skin, good grades, and had their own cars, but we knew in our hearts that we could belt out Georgia On My Mind with such precision and synchronicity, it could bring tears to your eyes.

We marched in parades, football games, and did concert performances during the winter. We spend hours in a bus motorcade listening to The Beach Boys and Van Halen from cassette tapes played on boom boxes that sat on the back of the bus seat. We girls learned how to change into our band uniforms on a moving bus without ever exposing an inch of flesh (its all about layering). I could pick out my own two basic black shoes from 300+ other basic black shoes and somehow managed to keep a pair of white gloves white for four years. But most of all, I got to work through my misfit stage in the safe company of 160 other misfits and managed to love every minute of it. I left school with confidence, discipline, a sense of teamwork, a love for music, and a sense that being different and nerdy was one of my gifts. I hope my boys end up feeling the same when they leave.

P.S. The trumpet in the picture of me? That's the silver Bach Stradivarius my parents got me for Christmas the year I made first chair.


Beth Hayden said...

Holly, I was a band geek, too! And I also played trumpet! BAND GEEKS RULE! :)

Mandy said...

That smile gives you away! Enjoyed seeing you at the game. it was my first high school football game.ever.

Anonymous said...

Holly, we've never met but I feel as if I know you already from reading this post which I found in a random Google search. Your post brought a smile to my face and memories of when the world was young and so was I. Your re-immersion/rebirth experience at your kids' football game is very familiar, touching, and very typical for me and many, many other former high school musicians. Welcome back to the family! We've missed you. (Your remark about playing "Georgia" was really heart-warming to this former Spirit of Atlanta (1980)soprano/trumpet). My son was also my ticket back into the fold. Not only did I get to watch him march in high school, I got to follow him for 4 wonderful and marvelous years of drum corps, culminating with a DCI World Championship ring. But I got so much more. I got to watch my son grow in skill, confidence and maturity , all while packing a Bach Strad in his hand. He is a confident, capable young man now, thanks in no small part to the experiences he gained through his music education experience. You and your kids are part of something really, really special. Enjoy the ride!

MommyB said...

I was in Marching Band too, well not exactly more like the Color Guard and I do have to say they were some of the best years of my life. Thanks for posting!!

PS Plan on going to TypeAMom Conference

Stacey Curnow said...

This is a great post - I love the idea that being a "nerd" was actually the BEST thing about high school. It is very telling, I think, that even at that young age you were able to really laser-focus in on the positive aspects of the experience! It's too bad that more teens can't have such an appreciation (at the time, at least) of those important years. Awesome pic, too! Best, Stacey

Lisa Marie Mary said...

This post almost made me sob like crazy!!!! I hollered out loud - some odd kind of noise I really cannot explain - because I'm not in the mood to get that all started again. (Happened to me last week at the ball game once I saw my three band geeks.)

Anyway, my three kids all march in the band and I was just thinking last night that ALL OF THOSE THINGS it was for you - I want it to be for them. And I'm thrilled to no describable end that they have that 'home-ness' available to them.

I was so uninvolved in school and it pains me now to remember the struggles I went through. I'm so beyond moved that my kids are part of their wonderful band family.

Thank you so much for sharing this post and sharing such an intimate part of yourself! It meant the world to me to read it!

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

LOVE that photo!! I played bass clarinet in middle school...because my parents couldn't afford to buy the saxophone I wanted, and that was the closest thing the school could offer for free. *sniff sniff*

I didn't continue into high school, but I did join the jazz band as a pianist. Oh, how I loved being part of that talented group! I never did learn to improvise like I wanted (on the keyboard, at least), but the memories are still priceless!

Marsha said...

I too was a band geek and i'll admit it to this day!!! The one thing i loved about marching band is when we went to competition and we knew we were doing a good job and at the end of the performance you had the biggest adrenaline rush you have ever felt!!! To this day when i see a marching band either on the field or in a parade it takes me back and i get GOOSE-BUMPS!!!!

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