Fall’s March Madness

Springboro Band 1999

Even though I wrote this twenty years ago while our own daughter was in marching band, this reflection still holds true today.  For there are thousands of band parents and family members that embrace fall as their time; when their own beloved teenagers transform into musical warriors…enjoy!

Along with brilliant colors and cool crisp nights, autumn ushers in activities that have long been anticipated. Football games, fall festivals and pumpkin patches are each eagerly welcomed with enthusiasm as multitudes of folks try to take advantage of the last remaining weeks of good weather. However, there is one spectator sport that is usually overlooked at this time of year, even though it is just as exciting as the other fall events. High school marching band competitions have more to offer the public than just a pleasurable experience for the eye and ear. A marching band can be a source of pride for a local community, county or even a state. For the supporters of the marching band, a high school marching band invitational can be more thrilling and rewarding than the proverbial, Friday night, high school football game. The 20th Annual Troy Invitational was a perfect platform to prove this point.

A very cold, stiff breeze from the North swept over Troy High School stadium, converting the aluminum bleachers into what seemed to be cold, marble mausoleum benches. Mother Nature’s treachery had turned this early October weekend into a frigid preview of the oncoming winter’s wrath. Squirrels scampered about on the green just north of the stadium, trying to locate last minute morsels that could be stored away for the long haul. The sun was just setting, playing hide and seek behind drifting clouds. The sun’s rays warmed the face and gave a temporary reprieve from the cutting wind. The aroma of popcorn and hot chocolate mingled together as it wafted past the nostrils of hungry patrons waiting to be seated in the stadium.

Parents, relatives, friends, and music lovers representing different school districts began to fill the stands. The entourage, wearing the school colors of choice, carried everything necessary to cheer on their band as well as an ample supply of blankets, hats, and gloves to help combat the numbing cold. As individuals began making their way into the stadium, the school colors they wore became an instant identifier, attracting other like members into their self-proclaimed cheering sections. These colorful groups of spectators made the stadium appear as if it were draped by a giant’s patchwork quilt. Trophy laden tables were displayed in front of the spectators; the trophies served as laurels given for a battle well fought. The anxious crowd fidgeted with anticipation as the first band prepared for war.

The first ensemble meandered onto the field and began to perform a “fingernails across the chalkboard” rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood”. The field commander fought for control of the unruly mob of musicians but reluctantly resigned herself to follow the laboring beat of the bass drum. The color guard cautiously pranced around while watching one another, unsure of the next routine. Tonight was not the night for this unit to clinch a victory; another weekend perhaps. All eyes were already staring at the next band to engage in musical combat.

The Springboro High School marching band stepped on the field with a confidence and self-assurance worthy of their reputation as a tough opponent. The musicians wore royal blue and black uniforms accentuated by a silver sequined sash across the chest. The performance began with a dramatic fanfare, followed by an intricate African beat. The color guard moved and gyrated to the music, transforming bright, colorful flags into spinning, hypnotic dervishes. The band continued moving from one complex formation to another, horns resonating melodies and exchanging fluent harmonies with the woodwinds. The performance ended as it had begun, with the same addictive fanfare. In the stands, the cold lifeless spectators sprang into animation as the crowd stood to their feed in applause. For a brief moment, the stadium belonged to the one hundred plus teenagers on the field. But only for a fleeting moment, for as in real life, there always seems to be bigger and better competition to battle against.

As the competition came closer to the finale, the largest marching units prepared to perform. The full, rich sounds that radiated from the field could only come from a band with over two hundred plus instruments. Grove City would be the easy victor tonight, take the Grand Champion award. In actuality, all of the performers were victorious; they were true winners.

The next time you are at a football game and the band marches out on the field during the halftime show, remember this. They are not actually there to entertain you; it is just another practice. The real competitive performance occurs every weekend in front of family, friends, and others who give up their fall afternoons to become band supporters.

This dedicated group of encouragers will cheer with enthusiasm whether or not their band is the best or worst. They will sit in the stands through sun, wind, rain, or snow just to offer one more, “YOU CAN DO IT!”. And their favorite band will gratefully respond back with a melodic, “THANK YOU”.