Thursday, November 26, 2015

5032 I love me a marching band.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I haven't watched a holiday parade on TV in ages, so I didn't realize how coverage of the parades has changed.  I love marching bands, especially high school bands, military bands, and police/fire department bands.  I love the sound and the precision.

10:20  We're 20 minutes into the NYC parade, and I'm getting very frustrated.  CBS is showing every balloon and every advertising float, but every time a marching band comes down the street they cut away to reporters nattering to each other or to somebody who has something to sell, or to commercials.  There have already been a jillion commercials.

And what's with these stage shows?  What do they have to do with a parade?

I am disgusted.

10:25  Whoa!  They just showed a high school band!  Well, a little of it.  They were moving FAST -- almost trotting.  
10:35  I wish the reporters would just SHUT UP!


All of this reminds me of my high school band experience.

The school I graduated from went from kindergarten to 12th grade in the one building, and there was a total of about 200 kids altogether.  Of that, about 80 were in high school (we were top-heavy because there were a few small Catholic schools that went up to eighth grade), and of that 80, about half were in the marching band. 

There was one other school in the northern reaches of the county, but they didn't have a marching band, just a small concert band, so we represented the county in all parades in all surrounding counties.   We won almost all competitions because we were the only band that actually played while marching.  All the others had to stop to play.  The uniforms were red pants and jackets with gold braid and bucket hats.

And then it all changed.

In my junior year, the county announced that they were consolidating the two public schools, and  building a new facility for the junior and senior high school classes ... which didn't seem to make a lot of sense to a lot of people because that meant some kids would be on the school bus for at least an hour each way, twice a day.  My class was going to be the last to graduate from our old school.

Also, somewhere in that period, the old music teacher retired, and we got a new woman.

She decided that the old uniforms with pants were not appropriate for the females in the band, so she ordered expensive new white wool skirts and jackets for the girls, with red berets ...  which didn't make a lot of sense since no one knew what the colors for the new school would be, and both bands would have to consolidate somehow, and with the boys in red and the girls in white, we lost the uniformity.  Plus, most of the parades were in the winter, and up there on the plateau it was COLD, often below zero, and the girls' legs froze.  (We majorettes were in skirts, but we at least could keep constantly moving.)

Something else that didn't make any sense, they stopped recruiting new members into the band.  The excuse we were given was the consolidation, but we all knew that the real reason was that the new music teacher didn't know how to teach any instrument beyond her beloved violin.  So over the next two years as members graduated, the band got smaller and smaller.

Plus, and this was the absolute worst, she changed the (I don't know the word for it) pace we marched to.  She decided we had to quick-step, apparently the latest fad.  Which meant we could no longer play while marching.

We all, kids and parents, hated her.  But I guess being a small school in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, she was the best they could get. 

We still won competitions, though, because without discussing it with her, the band whistled our old playlist as they marched.  She didn't like it, but she couldn't stop them.

My senior year we were down to three majorettes.  Sandra and Sharon and me.  Sandra and Sharon were tall, and I was short, so the teacher decided I should be the drum major, out in front with the big silver whistle and the bucket hat with the tall feathered plume.  I was so short the plume looked silly, so that was ditched.  But I got to blow the whistle for stops and turns and roll-off.  That was fun.

So, my class, the "last class from Turnpike High", graduated.  Over the next summer, the brand new building that everyone was supposed to be moving into, collapsed.  The foundation crumbled.  It was a complete loss.  It turned out someone had been siphoning off the construction money, and all the cement and concrete was mostly sand.

Nobody was surprised.