One band, one sound: Ten years later

I have a confession to make: I will always be a band geek. Even as people now see me as a guy who works solely with sports and assume I never had anything to do with music, I miss it.

Today marks exactly 10 years since the first time I carried a drum in a field show marching band competition. We bused to Portland for a competition that we were not at all prepared for and performed pretty poorly (unlike Skyview HS from Vancouver…). Ten years later, I can’t help but reminisce.

I miss the feel of the drum harness and the sound of a crisp, clean triplet roll performed perfectly by a tight five-man snare line. I miss the band camp experiences that would make for great stories if they had not been permanently tainted by Alyson Hannigan in “American Pie.” I miss the ridiculousness of a group of drummers smashing a pumpkin prior to taking the field, eating Flintstone vitamins as a weird sort of act of camaraderie and trying not to crack up while one of the tenor players points out that the Mead drummers are holding hands and he thinks we should, too.

I miss having to stand in the lobby holding a bass drum for a half hour following the Macy’s Parade because the hotel staff wouldn’t let us use the elevators until the “real guests” had made their way to their rooms. I miss playing Catch Phrase on the ferry ride to Victoria and renting mopeds on our down time in the capitol city of British Columbia.

I miss watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on the band bus (freshman year trip to Portland was the first time I’d ever seen it) and having “No Pants Wonder Night” boxer parties on the bus rides home. I miss swinging the fight song and intentionally rushing it to try to throw off the cheerleaders at football games. I miss having a freshman hide a grotesque mask under his uniform so he can pull it out while the band is on the field at halftime and “party boy” the tuba players standing nearby.

I miss the “beer” cheer that never really made sense at the end of a simple drumline warmup exercise, and I miss Jimmy G’s “Go drums!” yell right before the performance was about to start. I miss the shrill voice of an angry band director who is sick and tired of all the drummers’ shenanigans and I miss the drum and drill instructor who can’t survive without at least 12 eight-shot coffee beverages each day.

I miss the all-day rehearsals and broken drumsticks and drumheads and the blatantly inappropriate visuals snuck into the performance in the hopes that the wrong people won’t catch them (and they rarely did). I miss the cosmic brownies that we would pull out of our uniform pockets and eat while we were supposed to be standing still on the field during the awards announcements.

I miss the feel of the ridiculously old and old-fashioned cotton uniform with the terrible plastic shako and plume standing tall on my head. I miss the “duts” of a drumline trying to match the uneven time of the drum majors. I miss the crazy stories Jimmy would tell us at practice and right before we marched onto the field for competition.

To this day I can’t look at a store-bought Christmas tree without thinking of the year they appeared all over campus thanks to a few delinquent drummers. I can’t use a sauna without remembering the time we crammed more than 10 drummers into a tiny home sauna to see how long we could stay in there.

I can’t listen to All-4-One’s “I Swear” without beginning to sing in my lovely serenading voice used for the girls’ dorms at band camp each year. I can’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without remembering all the miseries and blunders of the experience of marching down Broadway. Every time I hear a reference to Vancouver’s Skyview High School I cringe with memories of that whiny voice granting them every award at the Portland competition.

While I don’t expect anyone who actually reads this to catch most (if any) of these very inside-references to my high school marching band experience, so many memories flooded my mind a few months ago when I had a chance to watch several drum corps perform in Medford. My friends couldn’t understand my excitement for going to the show, but then again none of them knew me 10 years ago when band was my life.

There was a strange sort of itch as I watched the precise movements and listened to the perfectly-timed beats of the drums, the runs of the bass line and the rolls of the snares. Then a couple weeks ago we had a local high school serve as a pep band at our football game, and they played the classic “beer” cheer from my high school pep band days (I couldn’t tell if anyone else was yelling “beer” with me… Probably not). I have audio tracks of the shows I performed in by sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, along with tracks from winter percussion performances my sophomore year. You better believe I listen to them often. Earlier this week I even found videos of those shows on YouTube – God’s gift to awesome memories.

They always say you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone. Well, 10 years after my first-ever field show performance with the Kamiak Show Band, I appreciate the memories and I will always cherish them. I may be up in the press box keeping the stats at football games and at the scorer’s table for basketball, but my heart will always be with the band performing at timeouts and halftime. And you better believe in my heart we’re swinging the fight song.

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