How Music Brings People Together: In Praise of Marching Band

High school marching band is a BIG deal many places, and it was a pretty big deal to my friends and I in high school.  I played saxophone in our marching band all four years of high school, and even though my senior year was 13 years ago now (WHAT!?!), I can still remember the feeling of stepping onto the field of competition, under the bright lights, our parents and directors screaming and waving cowbells (ah, the blue and gold cowbells).  It was magical.  We took a great deal of pride in our performance, our collective work throughout the summer and fall culminating in a competition at a local high school each Saturday night. Marching band is a team sport.  For some kids, sports are where they find their place.  For others, it is music.  And many band kids strive for excellence just as much as athletes do, practicing every day, working together, sharing struggles and triumphs, and ultimately building skills and relationships that will last a lifetime.

I have many vivid memories from marching band practices, football games, competitions, etc.  But I think the one memory that comes up again and again is the feeling of pride that we shared as a group.  It was camaraderie; it was teamwork.  The music brought us together into one singular goal - excellence as a group.  It was not about any one individual or section.  When the band gave a great performance, we all knew it - we felt it. And when we gave a mediocre performance, we felt that, too.  It wasn't a result of any one person - it was collective.  We were a team.

I remember trying to play well, "roll step," and maintain straight lines in the heat of the annual Labor Day parade.  That taught me about perseverance.

I remember trying to play in tune and keep feeling in my stiffening fingers on a particularly cold October night.  That taught me about dedication.

I remember, as a senior, trying to set a good example for freshman - teaching them, including them, showing them how much pride we took in this.  That taught me about leadership.

I remember when one of our band members got sick and passed away, and we tried to play "You'll Never Walk Alone" without crying.  That taught me about loss.

Everything I learned through marching band I carry with me to this day.  We represented our school, our band, ourselves, and that feeling of pride and team spirit runs deep.  Sometimes marching bands get the short end of the stick - they are the brunt of jokes.  But it is as serious as sports, as tight knit as any team, and as competitive as any game.  I am thankful for marching band - every experience I had, every relationship I built, every skill I gained.  Band kid for life!