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Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting My (Band) Geek (Back) On!

Me, at 15, in the Patrick Henry
High School Marching Band
uniform that my band wore for a
Valleydale Sausage commercial.
We used the proceeds from the
commercial to buy new uniforms.
When I was in high school, I was a band geek.  I played trumpet in the jazz band.  And the wind ensemble.  The marching band, too.  I was also in the regional band one year.  I loved it!

The Patrick Henry High School Marching Patriots were a competition band and attended (and won) numerous competitions.  Almost every year, we went on a major trip: Lakeland, FL; Gatlinburg, TN, and -- for my senior year -- Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the North American Music Festival, where my band won the grand champion trophy, despite the fact that we were competing against many larger bands.

Me, at 16, in my high school
marching band's new uniform,
complete with half cape and
1980s eyeglasses.
Years ago, when my then three-year-old son decided that he wanted to learn to play violin, I was happy, envisioning the day when Ian, Kimberly, and I would be able to make music together, on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.  I was an "orchestra dad" when Ian was in the Fine Tuners in New Jersey, schlepping the official Boys in Hats sound system to Fine Tuners gigs and even providing narration for The Devil Went Down to Georgia in a series of concerts.

Ian in Norwalk's
Memorial Day Parade.
 When Ian started playing clarinet, I was happy about that, too.  In fact, I was band-geekily-giddy about it as I remembered my band experiences.  Kimberly (who used to play flute in the school band) and I suffered through those first years of school band, with squeaky clarinets and blatty trumpets.  It was, after all, karma; we were paying back all those band parents who "got to" listen to us play when we were beginning musicians.

When Ian made it to high school, I stepped up to the role of being a band dad, getting fingerprinted so I could chaperone the band on trips, attending all of the band parent association meetings, volunteering to be the announcer for the band's annual Celebration of Sound competition, and walking with the band during parades to help keep them hydrated and to help out if anything should go wrong.

My big problem with walking along with the band is that it tears up my head to be out of step with the marching cadence and it looks rather stupid if I march along with my water bottle.  For good or ill, once marching band gets in your blood, it is there to stay.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Ian's band, the Brien McMahon Marching Senators, had two parades: one on Sunday in Rowayton and one on Monday in Norwalk.  As the band was warming up on Sunday, I happened to notice some decidedly non-high-school-age people getting ready to march in another band.  One was a woman with a bit of gray in her hair.  Several of the guys sported facial hair that had more salt than pepper.  "Marching band for grown-ups!" I thought, "How can that be?" and I went over to ask some questions.

Ian and me after the Ketonah, NY,
Firefighters' Carnival Parade.  
It turned out that the group was the Nash Drum Corps.  Back in 1944, the Nash Engineering Company (headquartered in Norwalk) started an employees-only drum corps to march in local parades.  Though Nash Engineering is no longer in Norwalk, the drum corps continues with a variety of folks who have decided to keep the tradition alive.  I asked one of the trumpet players, Ron, what it took to join and he almost stuck me in a uniform then and there, but I had a commitment to Ian's band.  The next week, though, Ian and I went to Ron's house and got outfitted in uniforms so we could march in the Katonah, NY, Firefighters' Parade.  I spent the next week practicing the 2nd Trumpet part to several songs, and Ian brushed up on the Manual of Arms, since there's no place for a clarinet in the drum corps.

The parade on Wednesday was fantastic, with Ian anchoring the front line and me having a blast getting to play trumpet in a marching band for the first time in nearly a quarter century.  Really, it's just like riding a bike; you don't forget.  The marching was great, the music was under-rehearsed but good.  The best thing, though, was the fact that I was able to march with Ian.  That was cool beyond belief.  

1 comment:

Lois Messner said...

Congratulations on getting back to your marching and playing days. What a great blog. Keep up the good work.