January 14th, 2011


LJ Idol week 9: marching orders

In my high school they didn’t offer a lot of elective classes, or even many choices about the basic requirements.  Everyone took either Literature (for the college bound) or English (for those just needing the high school diploma) at the appropriate grade level.  The math classes had a logical progression and the only way to get ahead was to start early, or take two classes in one year.  And there was only one band class.

Band covered everything.  We did the seasonal concerts as an orchestra, broke down into smaller groups for the solo and ensemble contest, and were the pep band for home sporting events.  Occasionally we marched, though there wasn’t much call for it during the school year.  All of it counted towards our grade.

(I enjoyed street marching, when we actually did it.  Practicing meant spending the band period outside walking through town in step, playing the only two songs we ever marched with: “On Wisconsin” and “The Beer Barrel Polka”.  I remember watching kids not old enough to be in school run out to their front yards to watch and thinking how random it must be to have a marching band go by in the middle of an afternoon, with no uniforms or parade to give us any context.)

Also included in band was one field performance annually, for the homecoming game.  We never tried for anything very elaborate, but it did require a bit more brain power than simply walking in a straight line.  We’d usually rehearse for a week or so before the big game, spending band period out on the football field learning our patterns.  My freshman year, we were rained out.  We still played pep band tunes during the game, but the field was too muddy and they didn’t want us tearing it up even more during the half.  So we stayed at our section of the bleachers under various umbrellas and jackets.

Sophomore year, ditto.

Junior year, ditto again.

Every year we practiced, but by my junior year the band’s halftime presentation at homecoming had been rained out for six years running.  We had been rehearsing the same routine for as long as any student had been in band (why change it, no one had seen it) and it had never been performed.

So my senior year, when all the weather forecasts a week before the homecoming game were saying rain was coming, we didn’t bother.  The director made an executive decision that we’d stay inside.  Instead we drilled a few new songs to play from the bleachers while the dance team learned some new moves to go along with them.

Homecoming night my senior year was cool and clear.  The rain that had been predicted all week never showed.  Our director just grinned and said “Ah well”, and we played our new songs.  Everyone laughed about it, of course the one year we hadn’t rehearsed was the year it was finally clear enough to perform.  Lots of comments were made about Murphy’s Law and doesn’t it just figure.


The next year, my younger brother reported that they had been practicing for the field show on and off for a few weeks, and even added some new moves.  Homecoming night, it rained.