Monday, October 29, 2007

The World of Marching Band.

We are in the throes of Championship time in the world of Marching bands with State Championships last Saturday, USSBA and Cavalcade of Bands the following two weekends.

Four years ago I never thought that I would know anything about this world. Oldest son was about to enter High School and played some piano and was teaching himself guitar when he announced that he was joining Marching Band. It sounded hard to march with piano but I thought he should join.

It was one of those things from left field that life occasionally throws you.

We had never said to ourselves "Gee, I hope he joins marching band" when he was four and running around in a Batman cape. (we never said "Gee, I hope he leaves the sunroof of the car open overnight and rain soaks my seats so that I have a excellent opportunity to practice forgiveness", either, but that is another story).

So in July of '03 he shows up at the first Wednesday marching band practice session of the year hoping to be the "pit" guitar player.

I pick him up at 6 and he has a very large box. Being curious, I ask "what's in the box?".

Why it's a mellowphone of course and I am introduced to the band director, Steve. Steve says don't worry. They'll teach him the mellowphone. He just needs to practice scales.

I'm thinking "what the heck is a mellowphone?"

I look up mellowphone on the Internet. It's a French Horn for marching bands and it looks heavy.

I know that like most fathers, I can be a little distant from the details of my kids lives. I may not know the name of their pediatrician, their art teachers name or what time they get home from school but I am pretty sure that I had never seen a very large shiny object that music comes out of attached to my son's face. I am fairly confident he does not play the mellowphone

I spend a week tripping over the large mellowphone box but the mellowphone never sees the light of day in our home.

No scales are practiced.

Along comes the second Wednesday and the mellowphone is escorted to the car and to practice.

I pick him up at six. He now has the the very familiar mellowphone box and a new box.

Again, I am curious. "What's in the box?"

It's an alto saxophone of course and I tell him that he doesn't play this either but at least it looks lighter.

The saxophone comes out everyday and he painfully practices. Our neighbor thinks he is killing goats in his room. "No", I say, "he is learning saxophone". They make a sour face at me. (now their son is learning trumpet and I am keeping my mouth shut).

By late August, he could play enough sax to get by and was learning to march. I find this amazing and am thankful it's not the mellowphone. There is only one mellowphone in the band and it would have been him. It's one thing to learn a new instrument and get by. It's another to be the only something and learning to play.

Some are born into Marching Band, some achieve Marching Band and still other have Marching Band thrust upon them. We had marching band thrust upon us and next thing I knew, someone handed us a cow bell, 35 fund raisers and asked us what jobs we wanted at something called "Home Comp". We were instant band parents.

We didn't get to any competitions that year because of school for my wife and soccer and scout commitments that I had with youngest son and so we were surprised the night he called us and told us that his band won USSBA's group II A in Allentown. They only time we watched their show that year was the time they performed for the parents at 1 AM on the field in front of the school using car head lights as their only light light source. I remember thinking someone was going to get killed marching in the dark.

I guess he did OK since 60 days previous to this he could barely play the sax.

The next three years were a blur of parking buses at "Home Comp", buying Shop-Rite gift cards , late night pick-ups at the high school and sitting in the cold listening to some other peoples kids play songs from Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll and Hyde.

We have gotten to more completions this year and are excited because his band is the New England Patriots of Group II A competitions this year. They are undefeated and favored going into Championship weekend.

Look for us. We'll be in the stands with a cowbell cheering them on.

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