- My son, a high-school freshman, joined the marching band recently.
- Marching band gave me a glimpse of a whole new world, and it was awesome.
- We could be a better society if we were more like marching band and cheered for everyone.
My family didn’t really know what we were in for when my soon-to-be high-school freshman showed up for his first marching-band practice.
The hours and hours of rehearsal. The 12-hour days of summer band camp, fighting dehydration. The late-season football games spent shivering under a blanket, clutching hand warmers. The grit, tenacity, and emotional roller coaster. It rivals any competitive sport I’ve witnessed.
Marching band is tough — and beautiful, exhausting, and breathtaking.
It’s also a fascinating microcosm that highlights how much better we could be as a society if everyone approached work and life as the band members do.
Newbies are welcome, embraced, and celebrated
As an eighth grader, my son was invited to play a song on the high-school football field in a pregame show with the full marching band. Sure, the middle schoolers stuck out — they were smaller, not in uniform, and certainly not as polished as the big kids. But they were welcomed nonetheless.
They were introduced to the people who’d become their mentors the following year. Paired with a buddy, they learned how to get around, where to stand, and how to walk onto the field. After playing together, the younger kids got to watch an incredible halftime show, so they could see how their hard work would pay off if they stuck with it. Then the middle schoolers and high schoolers got to hang out, eat pizza together, and goof around like normal teens.
There was no ridiculing or hazing. The newbies were embraced and valued. They’re the future of the program, and they were treated as such. This attitude carried on through the grueling weeks of band camp and into the stressful weekends of Friday-night football and all-day Saturday invitationals.
The band members embody a culture of support and caring — of looking out for one another. If someone’s having trouble with their instrument or a piece of music or movement, or if they need a hand with a prop, or if they’re just having a bad day, these kids step in to lift each other up, over and over again. It’s what they do and who they are.
We’re in this together
My son’s music director often reminds us that no one sits on the bench when it comes to marching band.
There may be section leaders and soloists, but the band is still playing and moving as one — everyone in step, in time, in tune. And everyone is essential.
Each participant on the field is dressed the same, from the plume in their shako to the toes of their marching shoes.
And in our school district, no one auditions for the marching band; unlike with our elementary-school basketball program, we don’t have a list of kids who got cut from the team.
Members come in all shapes and sizes, with all levels of skill and experience. If you need an instrument or lessons, you’re taken care of. And no one’s penalized if their family can’t afford the dues.
Imagine that level of caring and inclusivity in other areas of society.
We cheer for everyone
I played several sports as a kid, and athletic competitions are the norm for me. So my son’s competitive band season felt like an alternate universe at first.
There are points, and somebody wins and somebody doesn’t. But there’s no booing, complaining, or saying bad things about the other musicians.
It’s such a difference from the Friday-night lights, where you clap only for your side and keep your mouth shut if the other side does something good. On Saturday at the band invitational, everyone in the bleachers claps and cheers after every performance. We even applaud soloists and powerful melodies and synchronized rifle catches from our top rival schools.
Kitted out in my spirit wear, I’ve been stopped several times by parents from opposing schools to praise our performance. They’ve lauded a ballad that moved them and congratulated us on a recent invitational win.
What if we did that more in life? What if we complimented people who impressed us with their job or their parenting or their hard work and talents — even when we have nothing to gain, even if we’re in direct competition with them? What if we clapped for one another for no other reason than to say, “I see you, and you’re pretty awesome”?
I think the world would be a better place if it were just a little bit more like marching band.