Sunday, August 14, 2011

eyes: with pride!

So, this past week...ridiculous.
Ask and ye shall receive. I spent most of my summer wishing I was doing something other than Walmart. Anything different, unique, or interesting would work. Right after I had a huge breakdown and spent every evening on the phone with my mother, I got an offer to work with the Brookings High School Marching Band.

We are done with the first week of drill camp. It has definitely been a week of good and bad emotions, constant stress and disorder, and I absolutely love it. I had doubts about leaving Walmart, taking a tremendous pay cut, and jumping into a world of no guarantees, but I am one hundred percent certain this was the right choice.

I am so new to the world of competitive marching. These kids put forth a tremendous effort, and as much as we yell at them when they make mistakes, I spend most of my time in complete awe of what they can do. In just three days, the band learned a third of their field show, and the music rehearsals are absolutely phenomenal.
It's been a growing experience for me, too. The looks of fear and anxiety on the faces of the Freshman is often echoed on my face, as I struggle to set an entire side of the field in less than a minute, or drop and do ten push-ups numerous times for messing up commands during fundie block. The best feeling in the world is standing in front of the band, giving a command, and watching a group of teenagers turn into a cohesive, organized marching band before my eyes. As they grow, I grow, too. A small victory leaves me grinning and jumping around on the sidelines, punching the air in triumph. Turning a mess of confused kids into an award-winning band is something I am honored to do....and I KNOW I'm working with winners.

I know that I'm overly enthusiastic about marching band. It was a personal passion for me, since I joined the Pride, and even though many who participate in it dislike the band, or consider it a joke, marching becomes my life, and I love it (and sometimes love to hate it.) Working with the high school band, on top of marching for the Pride, gives me such a sense of accomplishment, and, well, pride. Through all the frustration, anxiety, anger, and disappointment, when a set finally clicks, a piece comes together, or a show springs to life, any accomplishment reminds me time and time again that it's all worth it.

The friendships I've made over the past week have already changed my life. People I didn't know this time last week have now become people I share every day with, and I already care about them more than I thought I ever would. Coworkers became friends, and students became family. Thinking about it, marching band in general, be it the Pride or the Bobcats, has given me more than I ever could have hoped for. It gave me important, lasting relationships, timeless memories, and unforgettable moments and feelings. It gave me the confidence to become the person I was meant to be, and without it, I would still be stuck.

A far-fetched dream of mine is to introduce marching into the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District. Everyone I've spoken to has been less than enthused, and I know it's a long shot. Marching band is expensive, and with cuts already made in the music department, adding another program would be asking a lot. This is an experience, however, that kids from GSL are missing out on, and it's a shame. How sad is it that Glencoe has a marching competition during the Glencoe Days Parade that its own students can't participate in? Interest in the arts has rapidly decreased, and I was just in time to hit high school and watch it collapse. Marching band incorporates musicianship, competition, and athletics, and may be what the district needs to save a dying program. I would even be willing to spend a summer back home, helping to build a program and introduce students and parents to marching.

This is probably a long-shot, and I don't even know if I can find a way to get this ball rolling, but I can't help but wonder if a program with the cohesion of a marching band drill would have given me more meaningful, lasting relationships in high school, and would have made those four years less of a hell.
One of the most outstanding moments in my life remains the minutes leading up to my first performance with the Pride. After seven years of being made fun of for my passion for instrumental music, forgoing sports in an athletic-heavy school district in favor of my trumpet, I was used to being mocked and unappreciated at sporting events, being considered "uncool" and "nerdy." Hearing the cheers and yells from the crowd of students when the Pride took the field, I immediately felt the familiar heat rushing back into my I was again, being judged poorly for something I was proud to be doing. As I leaned over and expressed my fear to one of the upperclassmen, he looked back at me and said, "No, Sam. They love the Pride here. They mean it." I will never forget the feeling I got as I stood in front of the huge stands, under the bright lights, hearing genuine cheering, as I realized I wasn't being judged, but ENCOURAGED.

I think every single student that picks up an instrument and genuinely loves playing should be encouraged, not judged. Perhaps people who look down on "band geeks" haven't actually noticed or appreciated how much technicality, talent, and perseverance it takes to play an instrument well. As hard as others train in athletics, musicians work hard to do what they love as well. Kids shouldn't be ashamed to be in band. I know that GSL has a sweet spot for its football program. Perhaps adding in another element to that program, a competitive marching band, that exhibits its field show at halftimes, would inspire interest and appreciation for a group of kids that has never felt what it's like to BE appreciated by the community. Music programs aren't just another set of numbers on a budget. Just like football, band has a face. It has many faces. Those faces are just as important as the face of an athlete, and should not be considered to hold any less value.

Alex told me of a sound-off of sorts that he used to do with the DC Marching Chargers, that ended with a drum major yelling "EYES!" and the band would respond "WITH PRIDE!"

I'd like to see pride in the eyes of the GSL band members, instead of shame, defeat, or disinterest. If anyone from GSL, student, alumni, or parent happens to read this, and would like to support me in this and help find a way to get this ball rolling, please contact me.

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