When teenagers go right

Who says that teenagers can’t make a commitment? Anyone whose child is a marching band member knows it just ain’t so.

Marching band is a Cult. The rites begin with Band Boot Camp the week before school starts: five days of practice from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with two short meal breaks (which are just to prevent damage to the instruments from students collapsing due to hunger). Once classes begin, practice goes for three hours most days after school and on Saturdays when there’s not a football game. These kids eat, dream, and breathe their band music and drills.


The band director sent out a list of ways you know you’ve been in the marching band too long which included:

1. You accidentally call the band director “Dad”;
2. Cold hot dogs, warm Coke and stale popcorn are a gourmet meal;
3. You pivot on every corner;
4. The band goes on a road trip and no buses break down;
5. The teachers excuse your mistakes by saying, “It’s all right; the poor thing’s in band”;
6. You think an “armed guard” is a girl with a flag, not a man with a gun.

Sadly, my entire family found this list hilarious. That’s because the Cult sucks everyone in. My Darling Daughter is the cause of it all: she plays the trumpet and is the band’s Drill Captain. My husband is the treasurer for the music parents’ association. I am the head roadie which means that I’m in charge of getting instruments on and off the truck and on and off the field for performances. My son has to listen to his sister practice and occasionally even gets roped into helping review a drill.


Although I am hugely relieved that band season is almost over (which is why I have time to write this), the truth is that I enjoy working side by side with this incredibly dedicated group of kids. The marching band is home to a very diverse group of personalities. I use the word “home” deliberately; it truly provides a place where all of these children feel valued for their contributions and comfortable with each other. The bonds forged among them are amazingly strong.

When I see them out on the field, resplendent in their uniforms, working together in a cohesive unit to create both beautiful music and a grand spectacle, it makes my heart swell with pride. There’s no place for slackers in the band: everyone does their part with joy, with passion, and, most of all, with complete commitment.

We grownups could take a lesson or two.


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