I’ve been putting this off forever. We had our last home football game. And then we had our last away game. And then we still had a concert on Friday night, where I had to get myself into that wool uniform one last time. But as I was stuffing my hands into those stretched out gloves and stuffing my feet into those unisex shoes and wondering how in the WORLD it became normal for me to be wearing overalls and a jacket with a zipper in the back, I realized that, hey, I was going to miss this.
Band has meant a lot to me.
It meant a lot to me on the day I was born, even though I didn’t know it. My parents actually met in the Penn State marching band. Years later, I was their first child, and my dad was SO excited that his way of celebrating was bringing a boom box into the hospital room and blasting Blue Band tunes for his new daughter. As I try to explain to people, I was brainwashed from the start.
Of course this doesn’t mean I’ve always accepted that. I picked up the clarinet in 5th grade, but it didn’t mean that I liked practicing. (Some things never change.) Still, I stuck with band because I loved music, and so the summer before high school, my parents began campaigning for me to join the high school marching band. Now, it was a TOUGH campaign because as we all know, many might consider joining the band “social suicide.” But after many pro and con lists, I finally gave in.
The Central Bucks South “MARCHIIIIINNNNGGGG TIIIIIIIITAAAANS!” was a great high school experience for me. I got my first real nickname (“Daisy”—it sounds like “Davies”). I made great friends who cared a lot about me. (What is it about music lovers that just make them good people, am I right?) In marching band, I also found something to be proud of: winning regional championships, my band director telling me I was the best backwards marcher he’d ever seen—man, that was a highlight–, and my close-knit, 6-person clarinet section my senior year.
When I joined the Mighty Sound of Maryland my freshman year, I was slightly nervous that things might be scary and different. One freshman clarinet named Theresa had found me on Facebook the summer before and made me nervous with her questions about bringing a plastic versus a wooden clarinet. When I went to sign in my first day, an older man put his arm around my shoulders and talked to me and my parents for a full five minutes before I realized he was my new band director. I lost my room key in the middle of the Mall the first night. Then during our first week, my stomach reacted so badly to the new, alien diner food that I seriously questioned if I would physically make it through the practices.
Yet, there were still some things that stayed the same. I was being so overfriendly and hyper that this guy from Georgia with a really strong Southern accent decided to call me “Sparky.” I also realized that clarinets weren’t as intense about their music as I had thought—this other guy named Mike Luu admitted at the end of our first sectional that he had forgotten his mouthpiece, and had been pretending to play behind his stand the entire time. Yeah, despite my fears that first week, I realized that this new marching band was going to watch out for me and be very accepting. By the end of the first week, I was comfortable enough that on our last night, I linked arms with this big, tall guy as we walked across campus. (We’ve now been dating for over two years.)
Band has meant a lot to me.
It’s meant that I’ve cared about things I never thought I’d care about. For instance, do you realize how much effort it takes to put a clarinet together? We have FIVE pieces to put together, and that doesn’t even include the ligature, reed, or lyre. So stop yelling at us to get ready faster, already!
Band has meant that monitoring the green shades of my clarinet over the season is entertaining. It’s meant cringing when I know that an instrument—or more often, a National Anthem singer—is out of tune. Sometimes, it means caring a lot that people scramble to their spot in time for “Block and Mess” or that they write down almost-incomprehensible coordinates into their music. One time for me, it meant getting in trouble from a director and running a lap around the field. Sometimes, band meant feeling disappointment in our students for not staying through rainy games, and at others, it was the guilty realization that normal humans don’t wake up to play “Hawaii Five-O” at 6am, and all the students probably hated us that day anyway.
But band has also—obviously—meant a lot of good things to me, too. People in band helped me not get (as) lost on campus and told me which classes not to take. They’ve gone to church with me and they’ve gone to parties with me. We’ve gone to concerts together, we’ve gotten snowed in together, and this year, we survived an earthquake and hurricane together. We’ve gotten standing ovations for performing the “Thriller” dance together. People in band have gotten me to become a tour guide and to join honor societies. They’ve also gotten me to play on a flag football team for three years, which is something I NEVER thought I’d do in my life. I’ve fed the clarinets, and boy, have they fed me. (I finally got used to diner food.) Another clarinet squad leader and I both started off our first Early Week leadership meeting with nothing but highlighters and camp games, and somehow we made it all work out together.
Basically what it all comes down to is that what has meant most to me about band is the people in it. Even my roommates who stay at LEAST through halftime for every game and our non-band “groupies” have made my four years with this organization worthwhile. But whether it’s those of you from band who have graduated , those of you who are graduating with me, or those of you who we leave behind, I’ve loved being in band with each of you. You will never get another college experience as important as this. We all love music, but what really brings the Mighty Sound of Maryland together is our friendships. I may have put on my marching band uniform for the last time, but even as I tried to zip up that stupid back zipper—like I always do—one of my friends laughed at me and helped me instead—like they always do. Marching band may be finally ending for me, but I hope the love and support in this band lasts forever.