Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturdays in the fall...

Will always mean this.

imageFor just over 20 years I participated in or taught color guard, in some form or another, in some school or another. To this day a sunny fall day brings memories flooding back of competition, practice, bus rides, staff meetings. Tearful girls (both joy and sorrow), dealing with rivals and infighting and catfighting and friendships and breakups.

In High School I loved the performance, marching in front of crowds in the big stadiums, trying to get them on their feet, trying to improve my own performance each week. In teaching I fell in love with finding those students who were on the edge - the ones who really didn't 'fit in' with any crowd, but had some small measure of talent and could be molded into a 'guard girl'. Or guy.

My greatest joys were rarely on the field, they were in rehearsal. Watching someone finally catch a triple (or finally catch it FLAT). Watching someone who at the beginning of the season struggled with drop spins now casually do double-time or even peggy spins. Watching that kick-ass section of the flag feature go from a horrendous mess to a thing of beauty over the course of the season.

I miss it.

In marching band there are no superstars. You succeed and fail on the strength of your weakest member. Coach can't sound the buzzer and send in a replacement for a weak second clarinet. Coach can't give a rousing halftime speech to bring everyone back to life for the rest of the show. There's no time-out to give your starters a breather and discuss strategy. It's just you and the music and your instrument (or flag or rifle or body), doing the absolute best you can, trying to do better than last performance, trying to reach perfection.

I love the activity because it forces each member to understand these things, to believe in themselves, to work hard at achieving something that they could not achieve alone. It forces them to strive for something esoteric; not a "win", but to better themselves each time out. Yeah they keep score, but for the best band scores are secondary, something oddly separated from the performance. Your score is important, but it's not most important.

So I sit here today on this amazing fall afternoon, watching my kids run around the yard, and listening to part of me that wants to be in the stands, watching a show, or better yet on the sidelines telling each girl to break a leg as they step on the field. And then holding my breath for the entire performance, waiting to see what wonders they work with the show.

Good luck to everyone out there between the lines today. Break a leg.
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