Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tis the Season -- Almost!

I found another wonderful book at the library. It's non-fiction, and it's what I would call "densely written." Not only is it rather lengthy, but I can't just fly through it at top speed. I don't want to miss ANYTHING, so no skimming. In fact, I haven't even finished reading it, but I couldn't wait to tell someone about it. The topic is so exciting that it has kept me awake several nights, unable to put the book down and turn off the light. It's that much fun!

The problem is, you may find this subject to be a total and complete snooze. For all I know, you'll be snoring in about eight seconds.
The topic? Marching bands.

When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Daffodil Parade every year. Sometimes we'd watch it in Tacoma, but usually avoid the biggest crowd and go to Puyallup. The floats were pretty, the clowns funny, the bagpipers interesting, but the best, BEST entries were the marching bands, and especially the drum sections. I loved feeling the bass drum reverberating in my own chest, wanting to dance to the cadences. Guess what my instrument of choice was, for eight years of school? Yep, percussion all the way! And guess which drum I chose to carry when it was my turn to march in parades? Yep, that big ol' bass drum.

Moving ahead a few years, my husband gradually taught me to enjoy watching football. Then he taught me how to keep a score book, starting with the eight-man team in our little farming community. Man, that was fun! We moved to a larger town, and the coach was pleased to have a reliable adult statistician. Then, we made another move to a metropolitan area where we didn't have any high school contacts. It was a few years before I was able to do stats again, and WOW what a step up! I've been privileged to be on the sideline of a 4A varsity (our state's biggest classification) program for twelve years, loving the up-close view of everything.

You may be wondering what football stats have to do with marching bands. As I said, I stand on the sideline to do the book -- it keeps my head in the game, both figuratively and literally. But if it's raining, I have to sit in the press box with the coaches or find a place in the stands so the book stays dry. During my first or second season with the 4A team, we played a game in the next town over. It rained cats, dogs, and pitchforks that night, so I found a seat above the 50 yard line and hunkered down. The area to my right was roped off for the band, and I figured it would be kind of fun to hear them, and no one else would sit close enough to all that noise to distract me from my job.

Little did I know...

This band happens to be one of the premiere marching bands in the region. When they walked into the stadium, I had never seen such a focused group of teens. Single file, flat-footed silent steps, eyes straight ahead, no goofing around. When they played, it was just about perfect and the music was much more complex than anything I had ever played. They had drum majors who put on quite an amazing show of their own. The director didn't have to do anything except watch. The score book for that game had several gaps where I missed entire plays as I stared at this incredible band. Although I can't recall their halftime show, what I do remember is that they had band dads in matching jackets who moved equipment for them. After the game, parents moved in behind the departing band members to remove the ropes and padded seat covers, and the dads loaded up all the big equipment onto big rolling carts. The kids did their silent walk, eyes straight ahead, and the dads pulled the carts across the street to the school.

Where did these people come from? Parents of teens don't make commitments like that, giving up their time and energy to haul drums and amps and xylophones for their kids every Friday night!

This town hosts one of the biggest Veterans' Day parades in the nation, and combines it with a marching band competition that incorporates parade marching and a field show. I've gone to the field show a few times, and once happened to walk past a parking lot full of school buses and a couple of charters. And... a couple of semi-trailers with the names of high school bands painted on the sides. The inside of the trailer was full of customized storage space for the band. Wow.

At one of the field competitions I watched, the crowd was so quiet that a trumpet soloist could be heard without amplification. Of course, we did have to strain a bit to hear the nuances of his piece over the sound of the raindrops on the roof. People were that attentive!

I could go on and on, and maybe I'll write more about this later, but if you've made it this far, here's the info about the book:

American Band, written by Kristen Laine. Here's a link to an NPR interview, too. Click on "listen now."


Cindy Kay said...

Wow, that was a long one :), but very passionately written.

Katharine said...

You made it through that one, Cindy? Good for you! Want to go to a parade with me? It's on a Saturday in November, and the parade and field show last about 12 hours. Yeah!

Cindy Kay said...

I think that sounds like the same Sat as the AWANA Grand Prix. Sorry ! :)

Katharine said...

(sigh) Guess I'll have to look for another victim -- uh, GUEST -- to take with me.