From Jessica Flock, Donor Relations Manager
The evening after my high school graduation, I laid on the warm asphalt of my high school parking lot with three of my best friends. Watching the clear summer blue of the sky fade to the pinkish bruise of sunset, my fingers idly traced the grid lines beneath me. Nearly a year prior, I’d been here, armed with blue paint, dabbing the white lines with the blue “zero” points that we needed for marching band practice. As the elected Secretary of the band, this was one of my few responsibilities. My fellow officers and I lovingly detailed the practice grid, devoured pizza, laughing, and planned what we should say to welcome our newest members – the incoming freshman.
I recalled one brutally humid August afternoon; unabated sunlight seared through the SPF 120 I’d slathered on that morning. As I shifted my weight back and forth between my aching feet, my trumpet swinging limply from my right hand, a damp sheet with my squad directions fluttering in my left hand, the band directors scaled the stadium seats. Once they reached the skyline, fifty feet above our heads, we stood in total silence, 430 over-heated, exhausted high school students, waiting breathlessly .
After a lengthy pause, the bullhorn crackled to life. Our band director cleared his throat. “I think we have it.” Spontaneous whoops, applause, and relieved laughter broke like a dam overflowing, our palpable happiness bursting through our discipline. After weeks of practice, of tweaking the plan, of listening to each other and trusting the direction of our leaders, we’d nailed our performance formation – an enormous pirate ship to compliment the main theme of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” our 2005 show closer.
Marching band was both a social activity and a rite of passage in my hometown, with more than half of the students in our high school being part of the organization. For a school with a limited arts budget, students swarmed the program, thanks in large part to the venerated band directors, Al Colella and Don Stimple. Together, these men built the band program from a modest group of musicians to a booming federation of enthusiastic students with varying levels of skill.
I was never a great trumpet player. I never earned a solo, or even ascended from the ranks of a “third” trumpet. However, I took the work seriously, assuming leadership roles even as I struggled to expand my ability to play my instrument. The juxtaposition of my successes and my failures in the marching band taught me more about myself than any other educational experience in my youth. I have endless stories about the organization, but ultimately, I can concisely say that belonging to my high school marching band helped me to believe in my own strengths, while simultaneously acknowledging my weaknesses.