Yesterday I was goofing off on Facebook, and I saw that a friend of mine posted some pictures of her youngest grandson marching in the Matthews Alive Parade with Providence High School. In the description she wrote something about it being his first parade, four more years of band, and she was in heaven.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but my first thought was she’s crazy. I was so happy to be away from all the work, the long hours, the heat, finding parking, walking long distances to find the best spot, standing for long stretches to see the 30 seconds when your child marches by.
As the Universe is wont to do, it put me right back into the situation I was being so thankful to be out of. UNC was playing USC at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, but they were going to practice that afternoon at a local high school.
Madi asked us to come to the high school to watch both bands rehearse and her conduct as drum major for the first time. Oh no. There was going to be walking long distances, heat, waiting, did I mention the heat?
Paul and I pulled into the parking lot of Sun Valley High School, and I could hear the drum line beating out a cadence. I got so excited I almost couldn’t wait to jump out of the car so I could hear it better, feel the power of it reverberating through my body.
I’m an outsider in the world of band. I get glimpses of it from Madi and the parents who, like me, are outsiders as well, but I love it completely. I used to make sure I was always wearing sunglasses when I went to a parade because I would immediately tear up when I saw her marching by.
When Madi went to the initial meeting at high school for marching band, she was a little undecided as to whether she wanted to participate. The meeting was full of parents and students who were handed packets with all kinds of information: uniform requirements, fees, schedules, deadlines, “volunteer” opportunities for the parents. At the end of the packet was an article about the benefits of band for kids.
The band director talked and explained to new parents and students how the whole system ran: the what, why, where, when, and how. Then he came to the article. I assumed that it was just a little freebie added in for good measure, and yet here he was taking the time to go over the benefits of band, and with great enthusiasm too. Madi and I both were hooked.
As I head into year 8 of Madi being involved with marching band, I see exactly why her band director had been so thorough in reviewing the article. Band kids are a special group. They are good people. They are fun and funny and quirky. They are hard workers. They do it all for the sake of the music. The glory that seems to follow the football players does not happen for them often. When ESPN covers a game, they don’t play the halftime show. They would rather broadcast replays from the game, analyze what has happened and guess at what will happen.
And yet the band plays on. They give it all they’ve got. In the end, there’s nothing solid like a score to be recorded. They leave the field with nothing more than the knowledge that they have done something to make the audience feel deeply, to be aware of their time in this place. They have provided a soundtrack to an afternoon or an evening that would be irrevocably less without the magic that they alone bring.