The house we raised our girls in sits close enough to the football stadium that you can hear the half-time show from the back yard if you listen carefully. The first fall after Emily graduated I opened the back door to do something and heard the band playing at the stadium. I stopped dead in my tracks, sat down on the steps and cried.
I wasn't crying because I missed going to the football games or that my baby had grown up. No--it was tears of joy....at the satisfaction that we had done it right. We had given our daughters the kind of high school experience that we intended. We had done it just the way we wanted. It was such a satisfying feeling that it brought me to tears.
I can't say enough good things about the experience of having a kid in band. They learn teamwork and resilience. That may not sound so special. After all, the football team and drill team learn those things. Ah, but the band!--they end up knowing how to play a musical instrument on top of it all. And they provide a constant source of entertainment during the game.The band stays busy--always playing something. It's nice when the team makes a touchdown or a dramatic play because then they play the fight song. Band parents don't spend a lot of time keeping track of the score. In fact, sometimes we don't even know who's ahead. And, best of all--it matters not a fig who actually wins the game. The band always wins, no matter what the scoreboard says.
Sarah began her band experience on an awesome note: On her first day of band practice she fainted from the heat. Then, like icing on a cake, later the same day she threw up. She is now an expert on dehydration, although the lesson came the hard way. By the time the Labor Day parade rolled around she declined a soft drink every time we offered one and chose water instead. Water has become her best friend. She's learned to watch for tubas and trombones and has been hit in the head by a trombone a couple of times.
I checked in with an old friend from high school to get an update on current band practices. Pam was in our high school band and had a long career teaching band that included some trophies. Such accomplishments has given her strong opinions. For one thing, she only taught military marching--and in her no-nonsense way has turned her nose up at today's free-flowing style. I don't know what they call it and I don't know for sure what they're doing down there. If they're making shapes I couldn't tell you what shape. By the end of the half-time Sarah had marched her way with great confidence to a point a few yards from the rest of the band. She looked absolutely fantastic standing there at attention. So competent. It wasn't until later that night that I wondered if maybe she had been out of formation out there by herself. But you couldn't tell.
Not so with military marching, says Pam. "A three year-old can tell if you're out of line." She says the only schools that still do military style are Texas A&M and some high schools in East Texas. And at A&M the band members are all in the corps. Yeah, those guys can do military.
It makes me sad that they have stopped televising half-time at college games. Especially since the content they have replaced it with is just more idolatry of physical excellence no matter what it takes to get you there. And when was the last marching band steroid scandal? Yeah, That's what I thought.
There is nothing to beat the sound of a marching band. I love the moment when the band, playing to the press box, turns around, toward the side of the field you're on and blasts the music in your face.
I've got a short video of the band last Friday night. I expect my video skills to improve as the season goes on.
At the Labor Day parade each high school in Garland marches, rotating who goes first and last. I was glad to hear that Sarah's band was first. I thought this meant I could go home afterwards. Silly me. We had to wait for Elizabeth and Emily's high school band to go by. And the church even had a float--a nice one, too.
Now the thing you need to know about South Garland High School is that it's....well, in the south part of town. And when they built the school it was surrounded by cotton fields. So using the confederate army Southern Colonel as a mascot seemed a great idea at the time. The school flag was an imitation of the Confederate battle flag. And the fight song? To the tune of Dixie, of course.
Theme in a box. Made perfect sense in 1966. Not so much in 1986. The entire time our girls were in high school there was great controversy over the school flag, mascot and fight song. When Elizabeth was in the band the summer uniform was a white shirt with different embellishments according to class: Freshmen had only their name embroidered on the pocket. The sophomores and juniors had extra insignia added each year until you got to be a senior. The crowning glory of your senior year was that you got the school flag embroidered on the back of your shirt. Well, you know what the Confederate battle flag looks like. All I could think of was that if we played any hostile black schools that fall Elizabeth was marching around on the well-lit field with a perfect cross-hairs on her back.
By the time Emily's senior year rolled around, the school thought it had solved the racial problem by having a black kid as the Southern Colonel mascot. yeah. Not so much. So they re-designed the flag to make it look less like the Confederate flag. Made sure everyone knew the lyrics to the fight song had nothing to do with "old times there are not forgotten--look away, look away, look away Dixieland." And kept a really low profile when they played a school with majority of black kids. And now in 2013 so much time has passed and the Southern Colonel has just dug more and more deeply into a tradition at the school.
So we just HAD to hang around the parade to see what the band would play. Sure enough, Dixie had survived. And it felt GREAT to hear the band play it. Never mind political correctness. It was my kids' high school. It was the song the band played for every touchdown, for every win. You've gotta admit it's a great tune. And we sang along as they passed by us. But I was so busy singing I didn't record it. Oops. Maybe when we play them in football later this fall.
There was one other great moment. And it wasn't even my kids' school. Not Sarah's nor Elizabeth's or Emily's or even Essie's. The one and only high school on the parade route is Garland High-- the oldest, the first high school in town. And when their band gets to the front of the school the whole parade stops. The band turns toward their school and plays the alma mater. They are the only school that gets to play their alma mater in the parade. And it's a wonderful moment, no matter where you went to school. For that moment we were all Garland Owls.