www.whyville.net Oct 3, 2007 Weekly Issue

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Marching Band (Masochism Exists!)

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Hello, It's Athena92, back from a very extensive break. This is a little reflection that I decided to write on the most fun class I'll ever take in my short High School career -- Marching Band!

August, 17th, Day 1 of Band Camp '06 . . .

I started out my day freezing; we all arrived at the school at around 8:00 in the morning, eager to begin a hard day of work. I looked around the band room for anyone else that I knew from Middle School; this was my first official day of calling myself a Freshman. I joined my best friend, Lara, who was chatting away near the front of the room, at the foot of our band instructor's podium. We jumped up and down enthusiastically, squealing with excitement.

Then, a hush swept over the room as JR, our lovable but sadistic band director, entered the room. He took his seat at his podium, and everyone, regardless of class, gave him his undivided attention. Even back then, when we were only Freshmen, we were perfectly aware of the respect that JR was payed, and the effect he had upon his students to scare them into submission and obedience; make one wrong move, snicker at the wrong point time, and his hawk eyes were focused on you; you were the bane of his existence for approximately 23 seconds.

JR gave us a long speech, mostly about how he expected us on our best behavior and that if we didn't want to be there, we might as well just walk out then and there, because we were wasting his time and he didn't have time for that type of nonsense. Of course, no one dared move a muscle. He proceeded to tell us that he had very high expectations for us, and that our band was growing exponentially (about 160 members that year). JR then dismissed the colorguard ("To the gym! Go, quickly!"), thus we commenced my first day ever of band camp.

In that gym, we spent one miserable hour doing stretching muscles that I didn't even know I had. Next, we spent about two hours doing across-the-floor practice, during which I proved myself as an utter klutz by displaying my lack of ability to do sash?s and saut?s and various other ballet staples. Nearly our whole group of Freshmen colorguard members managed to look like a heard of cows stampeding across the basketball court. Jody, one of our three guard instructors (Jody, Jeff, and Kim), did not make any of us feel much better by pointing this out to us. After we had all been embarrassed enough and awed by the veteran guard members' grace, we moved on to flag exercises. Hours upon hours of basic tosses and moves, so that by the time my first day of band camp came to an end at 6:00 pm, lactic acid had consumed the all the muscles in my right arm.

I went to bed almost instantly that night.

For the next four days, we, the guard, learned work to the marching band show, while the actual band members spent the day out on the football field at the park across the street from the school; we only used the school's football field for rare occasions and half-time show performances. Fletcher field, as we called it, was hardly a football field. If you can, try to imagine a field the size of a football field, but take away all the grass and replace it with dirt, dust, and small pebbles. I present to you, Fletcher field! Anyways, as I was saying, the instrument-playing band members (minus the pit) went out to the field to practice their music and their moves.

On Friday, the colorguard spent all day out on the field, and we were joined by the band after lunch. Lara, my best friend, who was in the guard with me, and I exchanged mutual looks of exhaustion, leaning on our flagpoles and fanning ourselves, in futile effort, with our sweat drenched hands.

"This is a once in a lifetime thing," I said to Lara as I tied my hair up in a ponytail.

She nodded in response, to tired to open her eyes or say anything.

"Tell me why . . . tell me why you aren't doing anything!" JR screamed, his voice magnified by his intercom that he insisted using, ensuring himself that everyone within two blocks of where he was standing would hear every word he said. "I'm not here so that you can socialize all day!"

I groaned, but continued to do the work that we learned, terrified of what JR would say or do to me if I didn't.

Fast forward two months; It's the end of October and I'm out on the football field, our last home football game of the year, and it's about 29 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I was rocking back and forth, wiggling my toes in my boots to make sure they can still feel, with frozen tears on my face; since it was the last home game, they were giving out awards to all the football players, yes, all 89 of them. That, to the band, translated to 15 minutes of torture, waiting for the announcer to just hurry up and finish and for Jackson, our drum major, to give up the signal. I tapped the metal of my unbearably cold flagpole, but the tips of my fingers were going numb. I held on tightly to the pole, as if that would extract heat from some mythical source. I'd wipe my eyes, but I didn't want to expose more freezing air to my body by reaching up. My arms were practically glued to my side. Then finally . . .

"One, two, three, four!" Jackson shouted. I sprouted back to life.

A cymbal rolled, my cue, and I started jazz running to my next spot, the flag twisting in my hands. I relied completely on muscle memory; I could hardly feel my fingers.

What else was I feeling at that moment? I remember asking myself, just why, exactly, was I putting myself through this sort of pain? Did I dislike myself that much? Why did I endure at least two hours of intense physical labor just so that people would have music to listen to as they bought hot dogs or hot chocolate during half-time? And who cares about all the competitions that we go to, our trophies are all hidden in storage rooms.

And then I found myself at the end of the show, smiling widely and honestly, holding out my arm gracefully in our ending pose. It hit me, that was the last time ever that I would have to perform that field show. No more fletcher field. No more of JR's yelling or Jody trying to teach us 50 counts of work in two minutes. It was all over for the rest of the year. At this point, I answered my own question. I did band because it was utterly exhilarating to perform. I felt great, despite the fact that I was blue and cold. I loved that "butterflies-in-the-stomach" feeling that you get when you're nervous. I could live off of the triumph that consumed me when I did well.

Again, let's skip over until August 14th, 2007. Aka, the first day of my second year of Band Camp. I entered the band room with confidence and immediately started giving out hugs to all my friends that I hadn't seen in the past three months. I noticed how obvious the Freshmen were acting, similar to the way I did exactly a year ago. I empathized with them; the first band camp is definitely the worst.

This year, I noticed several new faces; one new guard girl came up and asked me, "Where do we go from here?"

I nodded quietly at JR, who had just made his grand entrance. Already, people's mouths closed as he walked by. JR delivered his speech, almost identical to the one from the year before. Our band has continued to grow; this year we have 175 members, including the 25 colorguard members. Once again, we were dismissed.

The return is bittersweet; I am not just performing on flag this year. I'm spinning rifle and I'm a dancer this year ("In your face!" I say to my Freshman-self, struggling on jazzwalks). Of course, a rifle is really just code for more bruises and more lactic acid, both of which I've become great friends with in the past year.

I walked into the gym considerably more confident than I did last year, carrying a fake wooden rifle along with my ugly green flag. I smiled at Jody, who was already starring at and studying maps of the field show that JR had written out.

I started the morning cheerful and smiling, but then we actually started that long period of painful stretches. The nostalgia faded quickly. Sooner than I knew, I was back to asking myself questions about why on earth I started this nonsense to begin with. I winced with pain as I reached for my toes. I had no idea just how flexible I was not.

But I know, subconsciously, that I will be in this same situation next year, and again for my Senior year. What drives me? Oh, nothing really, just life-changing opportunities, like the way our band will be one of the bands marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2008. Or the satisfaction I feel with myself after the whole large extensive group of us plays and performs fantastically; it is really a breathtaking sight to see a field show done well.

Perhaps, though, I just like pain.


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