In high school (oh so many moons ago) my attention was divided by four key things: Girls, cars, weekends on the lake racing a sailboat, and marching band. I was lucky enough to have the first and last joined together … my girlfriends were in marching band. (Yes, I was a band geek and proud of it.)
The other night I had a dream about attending a high school band reunion. Like most dreams, it was a bit surreal and hard to follow. It went down a weird path. But the thought that stuck with me as I awoke was how grateful I was to have band as such an important part of my life … to have lived in a time where my bandmates and I did some fantastic things, and remain bonded in those experiences to this day.
Since then, high school music programs have taken severe hits. In the mid- to late 70s when I attended high school, band was a thing! We were blessed with many excellent players, many of whom went on to highly successful music careers. Our director was a perfectionist whose mantra was, “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect!” We had volunteers — college students who were veterans of award-winning drum corps — helping us throughout the season. We had summer band camps. Marching band practice started before school in the fall. Once classes started, we marched every afternoon.
We practiced for parades by marching through the ‘burbs surrounding our school, entertaining the neighbors along the way. When a series of rain storms swept through Southern California one fall, we practiced in an office building under construction, which we lovingly called the echo chamber. As a result, we were GOOD.
We were highly competitive in a very competitive market. People came to football games to see us perform, not just watch the game.
During my three years with the Conquistadors, we won nearly every competition we entered … the biggest loss is still considered political.
We were also a family. We celebrated together, we partied together and we wept together. We kidnapped each other for breakfast. We even tee-pee’d others’ houses before it became a criminal offense. Relationships between band members were common. Many suffered typical tragic high school endings, but some couples are celebrating more than 30 years together!
We’re still a family. There have been several band reunions over the years, but in an odd way, COVID brought us back together through virtual meetings. We have a Facebook page where people share memories and news.
Sure, we’re all older, mostly grayer, often heavier, or bereft of hair. Together we mourn the loss of those no longer with us. But mostly, we share stories of the good times and how that’s positively affected our lives today! It brings me great joy to know these brothers and sisters of 40 years ago are, for the most part, leading happy, healthy lives. I am truly grateful for their camaraderie then and now.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. When a band marches by, stop and listen to the music and take a moment to appreciate all the work those kids put into that performance.
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