I'm With the (Marching) Band

Monday, May 6, 2024
To all of my high school marching band and color guard friends, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never attended a football game to see how magnificent you were. I'm sorry I didn't watch you compete or wave to you as you marched in the township parade. I'm sorry I didn't understand how absolutely essential you were to our high school; how you were truly the beating heart of our school spirit. My son recently joined his high school marching band and he taught me so much. When you become a parent you think about all of the things you will teach your child but you never fully grasp how much they will teach you.

This post is part of an editorial section called Beyond Momma, where I share personal thoughts and stories. You can check out more of Beyond Momma here.

I had fun in high school, not gonna lie. A classmate in 1991 once told me I was 'worldly' and I took this as the highest compliment. Looking back on it, she was right. I spent my afternoons exploring the world- my friends and I would go to state parks and malls and even ride the bus to Greenwich Village in New York City.  I watched my friends jump into waterfalls and swing from rooftops, never ever desiring to join anything - I didn't even join them in their antics and I certainly didn't join any high school clubs (well, aside from the Drama Club, when I tried to join as part of their art/scenery department. They asked us to stay after school on Halloween, to which I adamantly refused and ultimately wound up quitting- stay after school on Halloween? Never). I was always, always the observer - a part of everything and nothing, all at once. As Iggy Pop (and later Siouxsie Sioux) put it so perfectly in his 1977 song, "The Passenger:" 

"I am the passenger
I stay under glass
I look through my window so bright
I see the stars come out tonight
I see the bright and hollow sky
Over the city's ripped backsides
And everything looks good tonight..."

I had friends in the marching band and friends in color guard but I never went to a single football game. I was too busy not being a part of anything to care. They never judged me for that, and I'm grateful. I'm glad they still wanted to be my friend.  I had NO idea how much work and effort they put into everything. I didn't know how many afternoons, evenings and weekends they gave up just to be a part of something bigger. They were not observers. They were participants.

That's me, observing stuff in high school.

Not only are the band members hard working, they're also vital to a football game, event, concert, parade- you name it! Their drums make you move, their music elicits cheers and smiles. Their very presence commands attention as they march onto the field with their cadence filling the air. They truly are the essence of an event, and this is something I never really appreciated until my son joined the band. The first time I saw him march in a parade, I cried. I watched him come down 5th Avenue- in New York City!- in full uniform, music echoing down the street- I was so proud! It was a feeling I can never describe. 

And I need to give a HUGE shout-out to the band leaders, directors and music teachers. Sadly I feel that music and art are taking a back burner in our education system these days and that's such a terrible  mistake. I've watched first-hand what a difference music has made in my son's life, and what an impact his music teachers have had on him. I am so grateful for their influence and support. I don't know how you ever repay someone for helping your child like that. Mr. G and Mr, R, I bow to you. And to Mr. S from middle school- thank you for acknowledging a musical talent in my son that no one else did. Your encouragement and recognition inspired him to continue on in high school and that meant everything

The marching band has brought our family together- my sister, who worked tirelessly to support her nephew and push him to where he needs to be- my parents and my in-laws for coming to games and performances and gushing with pride like my husband and I do. I had no idea what this experience would give to all of us. 

I asked my son if I should write this post because he's not a little boy anymore. It's not fair to put something out on the internet that pertains to him if he doesn't give it the seal of approval. His response was a quick, "of course" and encouragement for me to publish it. I didn't expect him to give me a deep response or heartfelt words- he's a teenager, after all. I don't need emotional words from him to know what to share. I have seen what this marching band has done for him - and for us. But his response inspired me, too. Should I share this with the world? 
                                                                                Of course. 

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