Sometimes, you just have to say "Well !#," and go on.
because we've been through too much hell to forget it.
Welcome to the
Into the Traveling Freak Show
It was a dark and stormy night. The rain beat in warning upon my head as I unheedingly ran for shelter. I passed through the open yellow doors on the side of South Denfer High School's G hall into a sizeable room, its walls littered with trophies and chronologically dated paintings. I had found the Band Room. Wishing you were with me, I found a seat beside my mother.
While I sat awaiting the pending introduction of Band, I allowed my mind to wander, thinking of the course my journey through high school would take. My daydream must have gotten lost while meandering down the wrong path, for reality corrected it severely.
(a) Although that is the most standard beginning a book could have; ironically, I have never read one beginning with that sentence. My Comp II professor would explain this phenomenon as "no good book ever begins that way." Nevertheless, that is exactly the beginning of this story.
There existed in Band an oddity. Actually, there were several oddities-most of them had names, and a good number of them hid in the Clarinet Section-but the most remarkable one involved instruments and their players: The instrument one played either depicted or produced particular traits in the players. Clarinets were freaky, forcibly opinionated, destructive, or a disturbed combination of all three. Trumpets and Horns were conceited. Flutes were holier than thou couldst ever be, and Saxophones had a difficult time being faithful to only one member of the opposite sex at a time. Trombones/Baritones were difficult to be fond of, for one reason or another; Tubas just liked their drugs; and Percussionists, of all sorts, lacked the integrity for personal space.
The first real experience of Band Camp unleashed nightmares into my bedchamber, haunting my sleep for many weeks thereafter. Angry notes, including countless armies of triplets and legions of accidentals, indefatigably pursued me across an edgeless sheet of music. Such was the horror of the appearance of our show music. Zachary Beteman, the Assistant Director, was to blame; he had felt inclined to arrange the music for that year's half-time show,(b) "Gladiator," at a grade 5. The hardest grade of music you and I, part of the underclassman from Springwood Middle School, had read was a grade 4, bearing in mind, we could not perform that specific piece to save our miserable lives. This, Beteman either failed to realize or disregarded (c). He then pronounced a decree, which rendered him liable for the virtual heart failure of every freshman and the vast majority of sophomores.
Although memorization is said to be the least complicated function of the brain, as Beteman assured us, the mere thought of committing to memory that which we struggled to play seated-as opposed to the running about the field we would soon experience-was a neon sign flashing "Vacancy" across Beteman's forehead; nevertheless, he obliviously sauntered further into the realm of insanity. The Assistant, due to his perfectionist nature and the Band's inability to perform at a college level, proceeded to alter the music at the minimal rate of twice a week until the contests were pressing nigh upon us. Even the upperclassmen were frustrated the man.
(b) Our freshman year, the show consisted of four parts: the opener, the ballad, the drum break, and the closer.
(c) Even as Freshmen, we had certain disrespect for authority. Never behind the Directors' backs did you and I include "Mr." with their names in conversation.
The Drum Line had for the first few days memorized and rehearsed its part separately from the Winds and PIT (Percussionists in Training). Finally, the day arrived when every division felt somewhat confident of its part-most assertive of all was the Drum Line-and agreed to combine. The PIT set up in the front of the Band Room while the Drum Line strutted into the room and assembled behind no other than the third row of Clarinets, where you and I happened to be seated. On the fourth count, three measures into the Trumpets' opening fanfare thus entered the almighty Drum Line. So powerful was the initial crack of the snares, You and I jolted at least a foot from our seat and in the chaos of terror, failed to remember our entrance.
Among all the persons associated with the South Denfer Band, Nolan was the most detested, at least by you and me. Our first encounter with this vile creature was the first Woodwind Sectional. Painful stand-beatings, immoral humiliations, and mind-numbing lectures-generally in reference to the greatness of his own band in comparison to ours-characterized any rehearsal over which he ruled.
Deciphering Bradley's perception of marching proved to be more vexing than horrifying. I managed to grasp the concept more rapidly than did you, who began as one of the worst marchers yet concluded your Band experience as one of the best. Once mastered, marching proved an effective method of stress relief…unless, of course, the circumstance in which one was marching initiated the stress.
The Band Picnic, held the final evening of Band Camp, was our initial performance before an audience. This presentation of the marching show proved to be the most frightening, not because it was our first, but due to the manner in which it was presented…in reverse! In an ordinary run of the show, the Band would march facing the Power Tower, the scaffolding from which the Directors glower over the field in search of mistakes that they can swoop down upon and devour; however, from this angle, it would leave no room for an audience. Thus, at each annual picnic, the Band performed-very badly due to the confusion on the field-the marching show facing the concession stand, one of the few traditions the Band did not anticipate.
Of the Initial Freaks
The term "normality" was a foreign concept to the Band. As we mingled with our new "family"-as Director Rob Marvin so lovingly labeled the Band-the statement soon became less an idea and more a reality.
At all times, Chester Rubble, the purpled-eyed Clarinet section leader, carried a particular key ring, a particularly pink key ring. Despite the many evaluations that key ring received-all of which rendered the same conclusion-he remained convinced that it was red. After countless arguments with the brick wall, you and I decided to appease the insanity and referred to that specific metallic PINK as Chesred. The insanity was appeased, and you and I could continue to mock it.
During the days of the annual Band Trip, those who remained behind were corralled like cattle, lowing and all, into the Band Room and guarded by a dozing sub. One such day, a few of us broke into the locked BAR (Band Auxiliary Room) to escape the noise of enclosed livestock. Chester, being among us, allowed Stupidity to escape from his mouth-at the price of offending you. Never willing to tolerate him from the beginning, you pursued him into the clarinet cubbies. He clumsily scaled them, perching on their flat tops like a frightened cat trembling in a very tall tree. Undeterred, you seized, if I am not mistaken, a saber from the Color Guard Room and sprang to assault him. To avoid your blows, Chester attempted to dismount the cubbies on the opposite side; however, due to his haste, the purple-eyed senior presented himself a prime target for Gravity's sense of humor. Without sympathy, the filthy BAR floor greeted Chester, and in spite of his tactics, the Section Leader received the anticipated flogging in addition to the injury of his graceless descent.
In the beginning, Chester randomly stole several old records from one of his classes in H Hall. The majority of them were shattered into many unusable pieces, but you and I placed one upon the Clarinet's wall. After witnessing the results from Its centered beating, you and I commanded a cease-fire by seizing It from their grasp, held It to the light, and proclaimed that the shape within the record frame was, in fact, The Fish. Awe-stricken stares uplifted the glory forged that day by wielded drumsticks.
You and I taped the fragile form in white tape, traced the figure of The Fish with a Sharpie, and colored The Fish with the shades instructed by the Sacred Record Itself. In gratitude, The Fish promised to beget a union among the Clarinets on the sole condition that It was mounted upon the wall. Oblivious to this understanding, Chester and Phil Birdwell, a tall, gangly sophomore Clarinet, attempted many times to hide The Fish; but fearing the pain of disobedience, they were always persuaded to retrieve It.
The Fish and Its glory reigned from the wall until the following year when, alas, Louise Olden-a sophomore Clarinet who would become the next year's Clarinet Section Leader-ordered Its removal. In Its wrath, The Fish severed the unity of the Clarinets, and never again were the Clarinets united. Terrible wars erupted, destroying all that was once good, within the section, but The Fish escaped the destruction.
Perceiving the deficiency of good people to whom The Fish could be passed, you and I reclaimed It, stowing It in a safe place until, perhaps one day, It can be readmitted into the world.
Carmen Mortridge, a senior Clarinet, was the type of person against which one took every precaution. Her glare alone surpassed a thousand agonizing deaths, but she did possess a less aggressive, more eccentric humor. During one evening's practice, Carmen took you aside during Basics Block (a) to demonstrate the proper technique for rolling one's feet. She explained it was like unto squishing a cockroach; roll your feet from heel to toe to ensure that all of the roach's innards spewed from its filthy little mouth. This analogy has since worked for many struggling freshmen.
(a) The entire Band formed a block and performed, like good, trained monkeys, whatever command Marvin barked at us.
Aside from having a bizarre fetish for Russians, Jacky Napts, a junior Clarinet, is accountable for one of the most misunderstood rituals practiced in the Clarinets. LA Day denotes Lesbian Actions Day, which the Clarinets practiced every Tuesday. The primary motive for LA Day's practice then and its continuation through the years was the fact that it highly disturbed the males in every section, and we had a lot of fun with that.
Trumpets, as I have said, were an incredibly arrogant race; thus, they were never willing to admit defeat in any argument, especially when they happened to be wrong. Gregory Belette was a prime example. He was Trumpet Section Leader and Band Captain, and he was known to give speeches that focused on the word, "focus," which he would repeat at unsuitably random intervals. He was also dating Rachel Anne Fauxite, a self-proclaimed Polynesian princess and a Clarinet.
One afternoon, Gregory sat with her royal highness upon the infamous rug in the Trumpet cubbies, implementing that which is expected when sitting upon the rug, when suddenly, from the clarinet cubbies, a small bell plummeted into restricted Trumpet space. Pride and Defense marched into the assailant's cubbies. Rosa Margen, a freshman Clarinet from Columbia who had actually thrown the projectile, immediately found something upon the ground to be an object of interest. Gazing past her, Gregory pointed to you.
"You! You did this! I know you did."
Of course, you attempted to defend yourself without revealing Rosa as the true culprit, "I did not," only to be wrongly condemned yourself.
"I am not lying!"
"You're lying about lying!"
"I am not!"
"Yes, you are! Everybody lies!"
"But I didn't!"
"Liars go to hell!"
Overcome with frustration, you did not pause to think, quickly retorting, "I'll see you there then!"
At that moment, a remarkable phenomenon occurred: Gregory was speechless. Whether he was in shock or he simply failed to conjure a riposte, the Trumpet Section Leader silently stomped in return to Rachel Anne.
Trumpets also had a simple manner of dealing with those disagreeable to High Brass society: Discard them head first into a tall garbage can and steal their shoes. The BAR conveniently had a very large garbage can, and Amelia Bates, the only freshman female Trumpet, often found herself examining the bottom of it as someone padded away with her shoe.
One of my favorite conversations involved Sampson Beard, the friendly Tuba Section Leader and Chaplain. You and I were sitting at lunch in the god-awful cafeteria as Sampson approached the table to join us (b). You had just declared the next person to mention your older sister-whose judgment everyone was questioning-would regret it. Sampson happened to be that person.
Oblivious to the situation, he queried your sister's health. I could feel the tension in the air. You glared from the feeding utensil in your hand to the inquirer and shouted (much to his surprise), "I'm going to stab you with my spoon!"(c)
Silence flurried gently over the table. You and I quickly finished eating and abandoned the bewildered Sampson in the deafening chatter of the cafeteria.
(b) We later discovered the convenience of the BAR at lunchtime. Our freshman and sophomore years, South Denfer implemented an open campus lunch, which meant we could eat anywhere on campus, and the BAR was a more sanitary alternative to the cafeteria.
(c) Spoons should be treated as a very real threat; the cafeteria spoons could cut through the Meat of the Day!
The Asphalt Calls…
Idle hands are the Devil's workshop. The Band experienced the truth of that old saying every practice during the setting or cleaning of drill. We were a very fidgety bunch, and we had to find a way to amuse ourselves. This generally resulted in numerous eruptions of anger and frustration from the Power Tower that wrathfully consumed bird, Band, and Practice Field. It was even worse on a Thursday evening practice because of the nearness of a game and/or competition.
During one of the initial after-school rehearsals, the Band was cleaning the opener when I entertained a painful reality check. Throughout the box-sixes in the opener, the Color Guard applied flag work in the spaces made available by the Winds marching in squares with six steps to each side. I had just rotated to complete my square when Wham! A flag embedded itself into my occipital bone. Trying to ignore the pretty stars dancing in my way, I proceeded with my drill. It was not until the opener had concluded that Karen Hammond, a Color Guard Captain and the one who had indented my skull, rushed to ensure my status with the visible world and express her apologies.
Once, for reasons unrecalled, Marvin happened to be the lone supervisor of practice and was displeased with the Band's performance. He squeaked his disappointment at the band and stomped to his office (a). In anger, Jason Horton, a senior Melophone, left the football field. After insisting Josh never returned, the remaining seniors prompted the Band to perform the marching show repeatedly until Marvin returned. It was a long wait, but it beat having keys thrown at our heads or watching glass shatter from a slamming door. Marvin's temper locked him in his office; Beteman's temper breathed destruction everywhere it went.
Marvin's punishment for needless discourse, however, retaliated with clever cruelty. In another practice, the Band had just run the show, but due to our unruly chatter, Marvin ordered that we run a few laps. With such gracious benevolence, he then allowed his gasping students to run the show again.
(a) He actually did squeak. The upperclassmen loved to tell him how proud they were that he was finally reaching puberty. He also had a permanently red nose from not wearing sunscreen, and he still lived with his parents, who had undoubtedly purchased his BMW for him; neither situation helped to promote the secession of ridicule from the upperclassmen.
With every show, the inevitability for choreography occurs. Our freshman year, the hired choreographer, who is perhaps remembered best by the phrase, "Put your tea party in your back pocket, ladies," was tall, gangly, African American, and gay. Amazingly skilled in his occupation, Darrell worked tirelessly to ensure an efficient portrayal of our marching show; however, periodically, his progress was a little less than tolerable.
One rehearsal, Darrell was developing the opening statement. Having long forsaken patience, you allowed your Color Guard partner, Carla, to persuade you stick your head into your column (b). Feeling a bit claustrophobic, you wanted very much to have your head back and attempted to retrieve it. You failed. After watching you struggle for a bit, a laughing Carla freed your head from the greedy column's clutches, saving you the embarrassment of having to explain your predicament to someone in claimed authority.
(b) An arch of several replicas of Roman columns lined the back of the field in an attempt to distract from the lines of Clarinets and Guard that hid behind them until the designated time in the opener. I believe they were hoping for a more dramatic entrance than they received.
Water breaks were rare but anticipated. The Directors visualized the show, ignoring their students' physiological needs. Needless to say, the Band suffered continuously of thirst.
When thirst was quenched, the Band was rebelliously unhurried in its return to practice. It was a very delicate cause and effect relationship. The Directors were stingy with the breaks because we loitered around the source of water, and we were greedy with the breaks because the Directors were stingy in giving them. Neither party was willing to cave first, and consequently, the causes and effects continued to cause and affect the other.
Through the course of scarce conversations around the watering hole, an interesting pet name for you ensued. Jason Polk, a freshman Alto Sax, had discovered a thrilling past time in reading the written words upon girls' T-shirts. You frequently wore a specific white shirt that bore the words "Drama Queen." Being your graceful self, you continually spilled your liquid, which was generally water, upon yourself.
One day, the liquid happened to be blue Gatorade, and for Irony's sake, you just happened to be clad in the white shirt. The apparently illiterate but overly observant Jason approached you and your presently blue shirt to tell you, "Dream Queen, you spilled your drink." Naturally, despite your corrective efforts, the label stuck with the Altos, but fortunately, it failed to dribble over into your sophomore year. Jason's leaving helped quite a bit.
During the drum break, a staged battle erupted. Everyone was required to fight with someone, and as you were near both Louise Olden and Alison Flask, the three of you fought together (c). One particular evening, if for no other reason than guaranteed amusement, you and Louise decided to unite against Alison. The sense of conquest must have brought some brutal sense of pleasure, for it thenceforth became the most anticipated part of the show.
Whilst you and Louise enjoyed beating the crap from Alison's pathetic, "broken" body, I enjoyed a make-believe conflict with Theresa, a freshman Color Guard member. Even in middle school, she and I were never "friendly," and kicking her-accidentally, of course-became an opportune routine as I "struggled" to escape capture from the plastic chains during practice.
(c) Alison was always suffering from some anatomical pain. It was usually her ankle, but when it wasn't her ankle, it was her wrist. Sometimes it was both, and other times it was neither, but regardless of the injury, she always insisted on limping during the show.
Where asphalt and a quick tempo coincide, Inevitability demands that someone suffers the pain associated with meeting asphalt, face to gravel. Everyone becomes that someone at least once in his or her marching career. As for me, I was marching backward at a tempo of 180 clicks per minute over the cliff between the raised asphalt and the parking lot, our Practice Field. Suddenly, slow motion invaded my vision until I reached a height of approximately six inches from the unforgiving ground. Wham!
I was swift to recover my stance, but insufficiently fast enough to remain unnoticed. When the set had finished, the first words that boomed from the sky were (as it is in reference to anyone's fall), "Is your instrument okay?" I bestowed my clarinet a cursory glance and gave the affirmative.
"Are you okay? You know this wouldn't happen if you'd use the proper marching technique I taught you."
Marvin did not even pause for a breath! It did not matter that his condemning words were not true or that I never actually found the chance to tell him I was fine save that I felt I had just received a poorly administered acupuncture from a poorly-trained therapist. What killed me was "Is your instrument okay?" God save the instruments!
Behold the Arena
Football games provided the beginning of an awesome season of stand dancing. You and I learned the traditional dances to 50 Ways, Dream Quest, and Spider, all of which were based upon the ultimate stand dance: The dancers alternate left and right faces, bouncing twice on each side. These rituals were an excellent method to anger management, stress release, energy control, and body temperature regulation.
The game-time activities also taught the proper method to compel someone to dance or, most often, to become a curious shade of red. To do so, one must repeatedly chant, "Go! Go, enter name here! Go, go, go enter name here!" Whether or not the chosen one danced, entertainment always followed.
The Mocking of the Cheerleaders was another favorite pastime among the Band. The squad had a cheer, which ran as follows: "We feel good. Oh, we feel so good. We feel fine all of the time. Ohhh!" This awe-inspiring chant had one drawback (aside from its existence), and that is someone needed to initiate it. Smiling cruelly, the Band would begin, "Hey, cheerleaders! How do you feel?" The trained monkeys would happily begin their cheer, but before they could finish the first line, the Band would interrupt.
"It doesn't matter how you feel!"
The Directors would administer a scowl of disapproval, but we continued our game until, alas, the cheerleaders recognized the routine and refused to do the cheer. Amusingly enough, when the Band attempted to instigate the cheer the following year, the squad again refused. Someone must have cut their strings.
When boarding the buses for away games and competitions, the Band has a strict ritual. Seniors, the elders of Band, are released first, marking the beginning of the stampede to the buses. Juniors dashed out shortly thereafter, followed by sophomores and finally freshmen, the bottom of the pecking order.
Our freshman year, the Band required the use of three buses, two if they were charters. The first bus, regardless of quantity, was always the Drum Line bus, which entailed continuous hacking under the supervision of the Director. The Assistant, in tradition, rode the second bus along with no one of specific interest, and the third bus housed the Color Guard. When Marvin was kind enough to order charters, the Color Guard rode the second bus, and no one of specific interest had to choose between the Drum Line and the Color Guard.
At first, you and I chose Bus 3, but then the incessant singing and sexual activity breached our threshold of tolerance. Thenceforth, we chose to ride Bus 2, the normal bus, or so we thought. It was from the residents of this bus, primarily Luke Collins, a junior Trumpet, that each Director received his pet name. Marvin was hailed the Wonder Hamster for his dumpy, rodent-like appearance while-in the random logic which happened to be swimming about in Luke's deranged little mind-Beteman received the label of Sexy Beast.
The first football game, held at Finley Stadium, generated three additional firsts for you and me: the first encounter with the icky, moldy uniforms; the first declaration of yet another Jacky-phrase, "Somebody do me;" and your first battle in the War of the Zippers, in which you never reigned victorious (a).
Oak Ridge, the second game, you and I will remember forever in association with miserably rainy weather and toilet paper. After dressing in drizzle, the Band, with ponchos placed decoratively on top, dolefully marched in a slightly heavier shower to the stands, where we stood in a deluge awaiting half time. As the final buzzer of the second quarter sounded, we deserted the inefficient plastic rain protection and marched like a prisoner to his death onto the sodden field to receive an unexpected, acknowledging shower by the field's sprinkler system. Driven by two callous forces, we performed the learned and rehearsed portion of our show. The muddy anger of the Oak Ridge field nearly consumed two members, and a rebellious group on the home side cast several rolls of toilet paper cast onto the field. Tomatoes would have given them better accuracy, and they would have remained intact despite the rain, but toilet paper delivered the message well enough.
The introduction of chicken rape occurred during the second home game when Jacky ran her fingers through your plume. A full understanding of this concept remained hidden until the following Tuesday evening's practice.
"All you have to do is finger someone's chicken," explained Jacky (b).
This was acceptable. It was not until Carla of Color Guard randomly decided to describe graphically the process by which Chester had become our daddy and to indicate which Guard was consequently the mother of which Clarinet that it became unacceptable. For many months thereafter, I wanted to vomit every time Chester passed through my plane of vision, and then I wanted to kick Carla…really hard.
For the first time in ten years, South Denfer vied against Langwood High School. Scattered about the latter's parking lot, Carmen Mortridge summoned the Clarinets and, for reasons forgotten, uttered curses upon us all. Having vented, she then announced ever so benignly, "Now, I'm going to lead you in the Lord's Prayer" (c). The Clarinets performed their best that night for fear of retribution.
This game also featured an alliance. Your zipper, still unmended, united with the rest of your marching attire to form the Crusade Against Dysfunctional Uniforms when Rosa accidentally destroyed your shako.
My favorite football game was the game before the Music City Invitational (MCI). My clarinet had refused to play properly so you had kindly lent yours to me for half time. The performance was a routine one until the Drum Break. At the fight scene, I routinely stabbed at Theresa with your instrument, just as I would my own, but as I did, the upper portion of your clarinet, (d) due to its loose fit, dropped to the field. In complete shock, I proceeded with my drill. Thinking quickly, I turned my head to Chester and demanded he retrieve the fallen half. In obedience, he "played" his own clarinet and the separated half of yours, but he was dumbfounded as to his next move. Yelling over the closer's intensity, I finally persuaded Chester to toss the half to me. Fortunately, he had good aim, and it was a safe recovery.
(a) The uniforms were at least twenty years old, and when they were not in use, they were stored in a smelly closet. After twenty plus years of this, mold began to grow, and we got to wear them anyway. The uniforms were also very difficult to put on by oneself due to the cummerbund, the buttons, the snaps, and the zippers. A second person was always appreciated and verbally requested. "Somebody do me!" The zippers were particularly frustrating because they were so old, and you always ended up with the worst of them.
(b) The plumes that stuck in one's shako were called "chickens." They were, I am sure, at one time white, which is the color of many chickens, but at the time we used them, they were a dead-looking gray; therefore, the term "chicken" was even more suitable. Instead of the plume resembling a pretty live chicken roosting on one's shako (which is, of course, highly unlikely), the plume resembled a dead, moldy chicken mounted on the top of one's shako (which is much more likely).
(c) The Lord's Prayer is recited by the Band during the pep talk given by Officers and Directors before every performance. Carmen, though not an Officer or Director, apparently felt that the pep talk was ineffective, and she could do better, and she was quite a bit more convincing.
(d) Your clarinet has gone through Hell and back. It has overcome the stickiness of bubble gum, the brutality of being dropped in the street, the fate of a projectile, and the weight of a small person crushing it into the ground beneath it. Instruments are not supposed to be that persevering.
Our competition season proved a decently successful one with two first place victories and two placements in second. As always, you and I happened upon many adventures along the way. I learned many a life lesson during these escapades with you, for instance:
Expect the unexpected. You and I were meandering through the Gym before our shift for South Denfer's Annual Band Challenge-generally shortened to ABC-when we passed the right, as opposed to left, stairway to the upper gym. You mentioned you had never been in the upstairs gym so I decided to escort you.
It is significant to note that you and I had been commanded to hang informative signs upon designated doors, which included the girls and boys' changing rooms. We noticed both doors were locked, but we never imagined the designated areas of changing would be altered without our knowledge; after all, we were the sign hangers.
As my eyes began to adjust to the absence of light in the upper gym, I vividly observed red and white hearted boxers. Without an explanation, I attempted to shove you down the stairs as I quickly descended. Your curiosity overcame you, however, and before I could stop you, my eyes were not the only ones wishing to be gauged out.
Walk; do not run. The Band had been sitting, once again clad in ponchos, for an indescribably long time upon saturated, shuddering bleachers erected along the edges of a drenched field. We had marched upon that same field a few hours earlier during a tornado watch and were quite angry at water in any form.
Suddenly, the grating voice of the announcer publicized the decision to cancel the Music City Invitational (MCI) finals. You and I, quite pleased by the cancellation, were surprised to witness a tearful Chester, closely pursued by Carmen, leaping the chain link fence and treading toward the charters. We had lost to Soddy Daisy. Considering the weather conditions, however, I could have conjured a better reason to throw a tantrum.
Eager to be free of the offensive rain, you and I, clothed in pajama pants and flip flops, scurried back to the charter buses …directly through a massive puddle of muddy water. In our haste, we had failed to notice the Band, clad in pretty green uniforms, walking to avoid the muddy collection of rainwater. If looks could kill, you and I would have died a thousand deaths in that one moment of thoughtlessness.
Do not lose your pants. Upon one of our many returns to the charters during MCI, you and I climbed onto the bus to hear Jacky loudly inquire, "Has anyone seen my pants?" She was clad in shorts, but the sound of her question made her seem far less innocent.
Finally, when traveling, always mingle with the natives. At the mall, one hour after our escape from MCI, you and I suffered more looks, but these did not wish damnation on our souls. Our mud-spattered appearances captured the perplexed attentions of many Nashville natives. Amused glances beheld us as you and I attempted to liberate ourselves from the filth in the large ladies' room sink.
Once we finally admitted defeat, we traveled to the Food Court to feed. Here, we met a native who inquired our life story-where we were from, why we were there, etc-to which we replied, "Langwood…for a competition" as we were still in Tennessee.
"Oh, I have family there in Ohio…"
Lacking the motivation to correct her, we said good-bye and proceeded to consume our shared French fries. I wonder if she ever looked for us when she went to visit her family.
The End to the Beginning of an Ever-Approaching End
The final competition triggered the termination of Marching Band and begot the beginning of yet another nightmare: Concert Season, or worse still CHRISTMAS BAND. It is not that I hated Christmas music, but being a freshman at the time, I failed to realize the pending doom that was about to befall the Band.
Christmas Band is what you and I have labeled the transition between the freedoms of Marching Band to the enclosure of Concert Band. It is during this time that the Directors unveil their true dispositions-what we had to fear the remainder of the school year-and the Band, unfortunately, had nowhere to hide. Although Beteman had already exposed his deficiency in anger management, you and I could not have imagined the extent of his fury. He had launched no projectiles, save the occasional notebook, during Marching Band, and the distance was considerably greater outside as opposed to the inside of the Band Room. Inside he also had access to an abundance of possible ammunition: stands, chairs, his baton, keys (a). Not a soul, animate or otherwise, was secure from the wrath of Beteman. All Marvin could do was become unnaturally red, almost to match his nose, and squeak. The Band mourned the days Beteman would conduct.
The worst memory of Christmas season is not the concert -it is the second worst- but is the parade. This year, the freshmen and sophomore's first encounter with the annual torment that is marching in cold, wet (it rained) wool uniforms was fulfilled without me; I was in Junior Clinic, a regional concert band and the lesser of two evils.
Fruit sales were the best memory of Christmas season. It was the only period in which the Band Room smelled of something besides musty uniforms or sweaty feet.
Of the music, Sleigh Ride was the most demanding piece, the highlight of which was hearing senior John Horne producing the convincing neigh of a horse through his trumpet. We read Russian Christmas Music, but,much to the disappointment of you, Jacky, and me, Marvin felt the Band would be wasting its time to continue attempting to refine it. In all honesty, we did rather slaughter it. My unprecedented favorite piece of the concert was the particular rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem that Marvin selected; you and I dubbed it The Christmas Song of Death, a far more appropriate title. With such dissonance as it held, this arrangement bestowed the listener with a mental image of Satan nestled among the livestock beside the manger of the holiday's icon. The audience's expression established enough justification to like this piece.
At the end of Christmas Band, the Directors held chair placement tests for the forthcoming semester, separating you and me into different parts. I ranked in the Second Clarinets while you remained in the Thirds. It was an unnecessary arrangement, in my opinion; you could have gotten enough volunteers for each part without dictating who goes where. The only accomplishment of the chair placements was destroying the integrity of its participants.
(a) A Percussionist, suffered the serrated ends of those one afternoon.
The Directors dedicated a small portion of the second semester to the preparation of a spring concert at the Conn Center on Lee University's campus. There, the Band performed three incredibly awesome compositions, one disturbing suite, and two ungodly dull pieces. Of the three incredibly awesome compositions, I personally fancied Aquarium. Sophomore Clarinet, Jessie Bell-who somehow ended up seated ahead of me despite ranking one chair below me-and I greatly amused ourselves by creating headings for random portions of this piece. Favored secondly was, amazingly enough, a Sousa March entitled The Thunderer. This piece you and I affectionately christened The Sheep Song, for reasons obvious to anyone who heard it: The entire piece sounded like a flock of sheep bounding over a fence, and I hold the numerous trills fully responsible. The third awesome piece was Second Suite for Military Band, which was comprised of four movements, only three of which the band performed. March, the first movement, was rather difficult yet well worth the struggle. The second movement was Song without words, "I'll love my Love." Although the subtitle might suggest amusement, it was actually a frightfully dull segment. The third movement proved more than the Band could manage. Gustav Holst must have imagined any song a blacksmith would sing to be ridiculously complicated and thereby yielded Song of the Blacksmith. The fourth, Fantasia on the Dargason, was my favorite movement; it had an almost Celtic sound to it.
Not surprisingly, Beteman selected the one disturbing suite the Band was compelled to play. Written by Robert Jager, Beteman's former director, Third Suite possessed an air, which offered a mental image of a deranged circus infested with threatening clowns, and I do not like clowns.
Not much is to be said for the two ungodly dull pieces-Overcome and Shenandoah-save that they were indeed ungodly dull.
For obvious reasons, the Directors applied the majority of the second semester in preparation for a shared concert with the UTC Symphonic Band. One piece the Band performed, Homage, was written by Dr. Holsinger, the Head Director at Lee University. River of Life, a decent piece,we played also, and The Sheep Song made a second appearance. Beteman conducted a lifeless piece entitled A Summer Was Just Beginning. You and I were just beginning to perceive a pattern in his taste in music.
SCGC was an annual Color Guard competition, and South Denfer happened to host it our freshman year. The eventful Saturday arrived, and we attended to our scheduled "potty duty." After completing our demanding shift of thrice inspecting the girls' bathroom, you and I departed the Gym and sauntered about A hall. There we found Bruce, a ridiculously talented Percussionist. Our idle hands wielded by boredom, you, Bruce, and I began to open every locker that had been rigged to open without a combination and promptly remove the manipulating wads of paper. Upon opening one locker, T. J., the school's resource officer, addressed us.
"Hey, what are you guys doing?"
Bruce froze, and I looked blankly to you.
"Umm… I need to borrow his math book," you answered quickly.
"Oh," laughed T. J., "I thought you were with them." He pointed to the Gym.
"Oh, no," I concurred, glancing down at the Band logo upon my shirt, "We're just here to get the math book so we can study."
"Ok, I'll just leave you to it." We thought it best to abandon our game after that.
Concert Festival, a collection of many band performances rated by three judges, was approaching rapidly when Marvin made a decree, which would alter Band, as even the upperclassmen had known. Since the Band was "too large to fit in the Band Room comfortably," it was divided into two bands nicknamed Big Band and Little Band. Marvin seized direction of the Big Band, which consisted of the Band's better players, and remained in the Band Room. I was among those selected for this band while you accompanied Beteman and the lower chairs, who formed the lower band, into the maze that is H hall. The search was on for a suitable classroom in which to hold Little Band class.
The first room Beteman tried was adjacent to the Auto Body Room and just happened to be missing half of its roof. The first rainy day quite ruined the mere speculation of its continued use, not to mention the complaints Beteman received from the classes in H hall-who found the half-roof to amplify the sound of your band-for disturbing the active learning process in the classrooms. By chance, a machine shop classroom was available. Accepting it greedily, Beteman finally had obtained sufficient space for his band; however, another dilemma reared its ugly head: the Little Band was insufficiently quiet due to the weakness of the players (who could have foreseen that?); therefore, Beteman chose some from the Big Band to perform in both bands, and unhappily, I was among them.
The day of Concert Fest shortly arrived, and the Band left early to arrive promptly at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) for the Little Band's performance, which included the incredibly lengthy To Challenge the Sky and the Heavens Above. It was an absolute disaster.
Members of all years from the Big Band foolishly conversed in such an audible manner during the concert that afterward, Beteman childishly stomped toward them and immediately delivered unto them a "damned well-deserved" reprimand, failing to withhold any inappropriate vocabulary. As frightening an experience for them as it was, you and I laughed hysterically. In addition, Vicki, a Clarinet who joined just for concert season, received a scolding for wearing pajama pants.
During the break between the bands' performances, you, Rosa, and I were walking about the UTC campus when we noticed an unsuspecting squirrel at the bottom of the hill (a). Detesting the vermin as you did, you ran-literally barking-down the hill in an attempt to frighten the evil creature. Rosa and I found it difficult to contain our laughter. Your plan succeeded, although I believe the squirrel ascended the tree merely to avoid being trampled rather than to have a place to cower in fear.
(a) I was still discontentedly clad in my bloody uniform since I yet had to play in the Big Band.
The Band Banquet was an annual event in which one paid to feed, to witness the recipients of superlatives, and to discover the elected officials and marching show of the following year. Both our freshman and sophomore year, the banquet was held in the school cafeteria-banquet, indeed. Remarkably, you and Cane Ravenstone, a Clarinet who had inexplicably become a close friend, received the Quietest award.
Upon the announcing of the show, Chester rocked back and forth, happily clapping his hands as Mr. Beteman played Abram's Pursuit, a Holsinger piece, as an indication of the anticipated marching show: A Dedication to Holsinger (A Sacred Journey).
At Graduation, you and I said our good-byes to the seniors and to Jacky, would leave for Florida, the finale of our freshman year of Band. Due to the rain, which had become a mocking symbol of existence at South Denfer, it was a cold, wet, and miserable end to an interesting year.