Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This One Time at Band Camp

My high school drumline (1991?).  I'm playing the 2nd bass drum from the left.

This one time at band, it's not going to be that kind of story.

This one time at band camp, I thought I might die from standing in the sweltering heat.  I felt like I was melting, but somehow my body held its form as well as supporting the 35-pound bass drum strapped to my front.  When I thought my blistered feet couldn't take one more step, I would hear, "One more run through, from the top!"  And I would groan, but comply.  That summer, my arms were so strong and muscled, not from pounding the drum, but from the push-ups demanded for my every error.  I would drag myself to lunch too weary to talk, too miserable to eat, but fill my tray with drinks instead, knowing we would be back on the field after lunch.  It was a summer of exhaustion and sunburn and struggling to learn something that didn't come naturally to me.

It ended up being one of my best and favorite school experiences.

I went to a drum corps show last night and it took me right back to those marching band days.  The first corps opened with a song that had been in the first show I marched in with our high school band.  I can still remember some of the drum part and drill 23 years later. I remember the feeling of excitement and nervousness as the band circled up for a pre-show pep talk and our bite of chocolate for energy.  There was a sense of  camaraderie and pride with our chant:  "Feet! (Together!) Stomach! (In!) Chest! (Out!) Shoulders! (Back!)  Chin! (Up!) Eyes! (With pride!) Eyes! (With pride!)" as we prepared to enter the field for competition.  To outsiders we may have been "band geeks", but to one another, we were like family.  Why else would we sign on to voluntarily giving up our Friday nights and many weekends to travel to football games and competitions, working in both the summer heat and the occasional winter snow?  What else would drive us to spend our "free time" memorizing music, and helping out with fundraisers to cover the cost of our travel?  It certainly wasn't for the joy of wearing those polyester uniforms and funny hats.

There is a gift in "suffering" together as it bonds you into a community.  There is pride in accomplishing something beautiful together that you could never have done on your own.  There is growth in pushing yourself past your comfort zone and finding you had more in you than you believed.  I learned so much discipline and so much about depending on others.  I grew a little as a musician, but even more as a person.  I have not continued in music (although I will be starting ukulele lessons soon), but I still carry the lessons I learned by carrying around that bass drum.  Music itself has a sacred quality that takes us beyond what we can speak.  Playing music--as well as hearing it-- is a spiritual experience.  And every time I hear a marching band play, it's as if I've found the beat of my life once again.

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