Since I live right by Edwards Stadium, whenever there's an event going on there, I get to hear and watch it proceed, especially anything that takes place in the big parking lot outside my window. Tonight is the Rocky Mountain Invitation Marching Band Competition.
It's making me super nostalgic. I was a huge marching band junkie in high school. I ate it up. I'm not 100% sure why, since I always seemed to be in poor condition during the marching season- one year it was right after I had surgery on both my arms, the next year I was dealing with tendonitis in both wrists and recent surgery on both feet, and the next year, although I did not know it yet, I was in the beginning stages of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Oh, boy. Why did Mr. Lemen even let me on the field? Once I was on, I was hooked. Yep, I was hot and sweaty and miserable and there were times when I couldn't march because it hurt too bad. But it was so much fun somehow!
The American Fork band has their trailer parked right outside my window. They still have their hats with the huge feathers on the top. I think they're supposed to look kind of cavalier, but they always made me giggle. AF has always been a huge, excellent band. We always kind of looked at them with poorly disguised envy because they were massive- sometimes they could stretch almost from one end zone to the other- and their formations were so tight, and their sound was so good. If AF didn't take home top honors, everyone was agog.
Now the drums are starting to practice their cadence. I always loved the quad drums. I think it's because they kind of epitomize the marching band sound. um . . . and now they're blasting soft rock music. That's kind of weird.
One of the funnest parts of marching band was band tour at the end of the season. We all piled on two buses and drove down to Vegas, because Mr. Lemen had connections with the band director there, a world-renowned music clinician, and he would run a clinic for us before the competition. Of course, since only part of the point of a tour is to actually fulfill your stated purpose, in this case compete, we spent a lot of time doing things about as wild and crazy as a bunch of teenagers from Orem, Utah can do. We always took advantage of the outdoor pool, since by then it had usually snowed in Utah. We gawked at the strip and weren't too sad that we couldn't go in the casinos.
One year we went to a little indoor amusement place with a small roller coaster and my friend Aaron, in the process of goofing around, which he was good at, managed to fall twenty-five feet into the pit where the track went. Fortunately, the coaster train wasn't actually moving at that moment, so they were able to stop it and get Aaron out. He claimed to have no memory of falling, and he did have a mild concussion. He also suddenly discovered that he owed a lot of people a lot of money. Funny thing about those concussions.
[Incidentally, as an aside, please do not ever put your phone on a setting where it will beep every five minutes when you get a message. I've been sitting here listening to my roommate's phone and contemplating what I am going to do to it if it keeps beeping like that. Highly annoying.]
One of the most memorable moments of high school marching band was definitely my final performance on the field. It was on our Vegas tour my senior year. This was a competition with a prelim and a final competition. We competed in the prelim and felt pretty good about it. I played the piccolo in the marching band and our marching piccolo was, frankly, a piece of trash. It was so out of tune that I had learned how to automatically rotate i to a certain angle for each note I played to bring it as close to being in tune as possible. It was no mean feat, and it still didn't sound super great, which was too bad, since it was one of the few woodwind instruments that could actually really be heard from the bleachers. Piccolos come in a few varieties and they're generally made of metal, wood, or a hard plastic-y resin. Usually the nicest ones are wood, then metal, then resin. The marching piccolo was definitely resin. And I think it had a couple of chips. It was a durability piccolo, which is why we used it on the field. The school owned another piccolo that I played in the wind symphony. That piccolo was wood and I treated it like it was my baby.
I had no such affections for the marching piccolo. After we completed our show for the prelims, I took it back to the bus. For some reason that I cannot remember at all now, I didn't put the piccolo back in its case. I think I couldn't find it; it was on the bottom of a pile of stuff and so I just tucked the piccolo in my backpack and figured it would be safe enough. Then I changed out of my uniform and went to join my friends.
We ate lunch and watched the other bands compete, which was always half of the fun. It was even funner in Vegas, because we hadn't seen most of those bands before. We generally competed at six or seven invitationals in Utah during the marching season, and we usually saw Provo High and Lone Peak and AF and Payson's bagpipe marching band
perform six or seven times, although there were always a couple of new ones at each invitational. But in Vegas, almost all the shows were new, and we enjoyed gawking at their moves and analyzing their technique and style choice.
The finals were announced, and we were called back. So we piled back to the buses to change back in to our uniforms and warm up. This was when my trouble started.
I put on my funny uniform pants that looked like snowpants because of the built-in jumper. I usually put on the jacket and hat a little later because they were restrictive, so in the jumper pants and a t-shirt, I took off my shoes and reached into my uniform bag to pull out my black socks and shoes. The socks were there. The shoes were not.
I stared into the bag. I emptied it out upside down. I looked in my backpack, on the bus, in the luggage compartments under the bus, in my suitcase just in case I stuck them in there, and up and down all the seats on my bus. No shoes. I looked again. They didn't appear. I was shoeless. I went to tell Mr. Lemen that I had no marching shoes. I couldn't wear my normal shoes; it would have been very tacky since they were the wrong color. Little things like that can really bring down the overall score that a band receives from the judges. Fortunately, I was one of Mr. Lemen's favorite students (because I worked hard and didn't goof off and was never involved in a traumatic inter-band relationship. Plus, I was his flute section leader for two years). Mr. Lemen was always stressed out right before a competition, but he refrained from yelling at me and after thinking for a minute, told me that I would just have to march in my black socks.
I turned to go get my piccolo from the bus, resigned to marching in stocking feet. It was dark by now, but I could see the tall figure of my friend Micah walking towards me. As he got closer, I could see a very . . . odd expression on his face. And he was clearly walking towards me.
Uh, Maria . . ." he started, "you know how you and I were switching seats all day? And you know how you left your backpack on the seat? Um . . . well, it was dark and I sat down, and I didn't know your backpack was there . . . and then I heard a snap . . ." and he held up the two jagged ends of my broken piccolo.
Poor little piccolo. I was so completely startled that I didn't know what to do at first. I just stared at him. I was, of course, grateful that the piccolo was a lower end instrument, but it was still an expensive thing, and without it, i wouldn't be doing much playing that night.
After Micah's profuse apologies slowed down, we hunted down some duct tape somehow. The piccolo had snapped off right at the base of the head joint, and we taped it back to the body. It was pretty wobbly, but it played, albeit even worse than it had played before.
So I marched on to the field in my stocking feet with my duct taped piccolo for my final marching performance.
* * *
Those three stars are to indicate that a little time has passed since I wrote the above. As in an hour or two, not days or weeks. But the pull of the bands was too much tonight so I poked over to the stadium, snuck in past the events staff (it was a free event, but it felt cooler somehow to sneak), and watched the last three schools of the night perform: Skyline, Davis, and American Fork. They were all huge and all amazing. And it was incredible what kinds of memories came back to me just from sitting in those freezing bleachers with the nippy October air slowly lowering my body temperature and listening to the sounds of the hyper, exuberant high school students, the cadence of the drums, and the burst of sound from the bands. So many memories, so many friends.
We've all scattered long since, of course. I know where my favorites are- Rachel, in Taiwan, teaching English; Amanda, in Eagle Mountain, raising two little girls; Steve in Missouri attending medical school (as a note, I probably would never have called Steve one of my favorites in high school. But he changed a lot after his mission. And then he married my roommate. And now they're about to have a baby girl); Melissa, right here in Provo teaching choir at Timpview High; Ivan, in Utah Valley somewhere with a wife and two kids. I guess there are a few who I've lost track of- Humble Heather the only female trumpet player, Richard, the trombonist who was the quintessential band nerd (I'm pretty sure he would have lived in the band room if he could have figured out how), Jenny, who was the flute section leader my first year and a much-needed ally and friend, Megan, the sweet, happy, rather ditzy girl who hung out with Rachel and I, and Amy, who was my best friend for two years and then we just started drifting apart for no apparent reason, although we remained on perfectly good terms. I wonder where they all are now. I hope they are doing well.