October 19, 2005

Homecoming, part 2 -- Why Can't Marching Bands Just March?

Buried in my Homecoming post below, I mentioned that the halftime show was worthy of its own post. As with many things, I intended to return to the subject that day or the next perhaps. Here it is much, much later and I'm only finally getting back to it.

Sewanee does not have its own marching band. It has a fine orchestra, a wonderful choir, great organists and carriloneurs, but I suppose marching band must be a little low brow. For some reason, the powers that be think Homecoming, unlike other football games, requires a marching band, so they make arrangements every year with one of the nearby high school bands to provide halftime entertainment.

During college, I can't say I paid much attention to the bands. I remember that they seemed to play Rocky Top every year, but that's about all that comes to mind.

This year, though, the high school marching band made an extra special effort to do something really entertaining. We should have been tipped off that something was up when they brought so many props onto the field. There were fake palm trees, a park bench, a miniature graveyard, several different flags, and plastic swords, as well as changes of costume. The truth is though, that the fog started rolling in just then and I was walking the kids around, so I didn't notice all of this at first.

Without announcement, the band started playing -- a few bars of the Star Spangled Banner (enough to realize what you were hearing and put your hand over your heart) and then the music swung right into Moonlight Serenade. And there were majorettes on the field swing dancing (poor girls in sleeveless dresses in the cold damp fog).

This medley was followed by another. I can't really tell you what order most things transpired in. At some point the music was quite marshal and the flag corps was fighting with flags -- half of them waving blue flags with stars while the other half swung Japanese flags and the majorettes twirled plastic swords. This was when it finally dawned on me what they were doing -- we were seeing a musical reenactment of the War in the Pacific.

After the fighting, the band played Taps and off at one end of the field one of the majorettes ceremonially kneeled weeping at the fake graveyard. This was followed by some sort of peaceful tune while the flag corps ran a circle around the field carrying white flags with doves printed on them.

You'd think that would be the end, but it wasn't. I can't remember what the final music was -- by this point the spectacle of the thing had captured my attention. Whatever rousing finale was played was accompanied by the majorettes throwing on old military jackets and raising a flag -- holding it in the stance memorialized in the Iwo Jima statue.

I think the band played well and the majorettes and flag corps certainly had their work cut out for them with all the flag and costume changes -- plus learning to swing and running all over the place. One must certainly give them credit. However, what's wrong with a few rousing tunes, a band marching around the field and (if you must) baton twirling and flag waving? Must we make everything into an elaborate spectacle?


It was a shock to me too when my daughter began in marching band six years ago. The long hours of training, the adding of props and new musical pieces each week, the elaborateness of it all. And the competitions. Band just isn't band any more it is sport, competition. Points and winners and losers. It's kinda like life. I had to learn to fight through all of the crap to appreciate the beauty.
I must confess as a father I handled this poorly. I chose not to be interested without realizing the devastating impact this would have on my daughter. Her interpretation was that I wasn't interested in her. She felt ignored and abandoned by me and I was oblivious. Eventually the truth came out how hurt she was. She was very angry. When I started attending the competitions for marching band and helping get all the props and instruments on the floor in Winter Percussion it took a while for the ice to melt. Eventually, she came to trust that I really did care. I earned my way back into her life and heart. This was very important when I took a stand about a boy she was dating who was bringing more darkness into her soul.
So, moral of the story for me. If my kid is interested in something I try to be interested and this not to fake it but because I have a wide open path to the depths of my childs heart.

Posted by: ben at October 19, 2005 11:06 AM

Band is a sport. This year Mayhem #2's band is only competing twice since this is not our state year. We have our UIL competition this coming Tuesday. In Texas, the props don't usually come out until the Regional level, and then you have lots of props for the State level. Last year, Mayhem #1 and the band made it to the state level with a show called Hiereglyphs(sp?). This year it's a salute to Broadway since our school is producing it's 50th musical in three weeks. My favorite show was the year they did the rise and fall of the Roman empire in 7 1/2 minutes.

And I agree with Ben whole heartedly. Be there!! I've taken pictures of kids who are seniors whose parents have never been to a single football game or competition. It's really sad.

Posted by: mercy at October 21, 2005 05:54 AM

To clarify, three weeks from now is the scheduled performance of the school's 50th musical...we're aren't performing 50 musicals in the span of three weeks. ;-)

Posted by: LittleA at October 21, 2005 03:48 PM