Monday, July 28, 2008

It's OK, I'm with the Band

My oldest reported to band camp this morning.

He had a few days of "rookie camp" a couple of weeks back.

But now, it's the real deal.

His first time at this leaves me profoundly nostalgic.

Years and years ago, I was a part of the South Side High School marching band, even though I was in the 8th grade. I wouldn't credit my skill on the horn as the sole reason (although I wasn't bad at all), but more the need for bodies in the band.

So, every day, I would walk from the Jr. High, across the football/band practice field to the band room at the high school during last period. It was my way of showing the "kids" in the Jr. High that I really belonged somewhere else.

Or so I thought.

Band Camp - Late July, early August every year - report. All day. Learn the music, learn the show. Stand in blazing heat.

I was able to rub elbows with the upper classmen. Several of us went to church together, anyway, and others of us were part of another group (SSYP) so there were several ties to bind us. 

So today, as I see my kid shove off into this new adventure -something I think he'll find of great value, I'm reminded of Stutzman, Perry, McKenzie, Mayo, Jones and a long list of girls I wanted to notice me more than anything else.

Never mind they were several years older than me.

Because I hung out the cool guys, sometimes they would sit with me as we travelled. They flirted. I flirted. Ultimately, though, it had to come up, "why don't I see you in any classes?"

The jig was up. "Well, I'm only 14."

That's when flirtation moved to "let's be friends." There it is, dammit, the "friend" thing again!

And because I was "safe," they continued to ride with me on the bus, and I moved into the "counselor" role. A role I relished.

Those were great days. If anything, they were my "Wonder Years."

We marched at all games, we competed, we travelled. It was an experience. When we were out of uniform, we all had T-shirts that had our instrument printed on the back. On the front, it said "It's OK, I'm with the Band." I thought that was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen.

When I moved to Memphis, the band experience was very different. And the adjustment was difficult. No band camp. No show. We played at the games from the stands and rushed to the buses after the game to avoid getting into fights.

My Wooddale band days did benefit me in being able to learn and appreciate jazz - something that has endured even to this day.

My two years in "The Mighty Sound of the South," when I was at Memphis State, was the right way to end that part of my active trumpet playing. It was the South Side experience on steroids.

Everyone could blow - there were no weak links.

Several shows to learn through the football season.

Two weeks of band camp - Memphis in August - all day and through the night - brutal.

It took six Trailways buses to move us down the road.  We travelled to Oxford, New Orleans, Knoxville, Nashville, Starkville, and Tuscaloosa.

Now college aged travel is a bit more, uh, shall we say "hormonal" than high school, and in the words of Forrest Gump, "that all I have to say about that!"

I played in college for a couple of years on a band scholarship - which actually paid a semester's tuition back then.  The problem with that was that when we travelled to play at football games, and especially, when we played at the Coliseum for Tiger basketball games (we're talking the early-mid 80's Tigers) - I was there for one purpose only--TO WATCH THE GAME!  To be interrupted with my game watching because we had to play some little ditty - spare me.

I know how it goes. Folks who live in the "band world" are often labelled "band geeks." I guess there's some truth to that - but little such folks care.  There's something about being in the band.  It can be cool.  It often is.

To this day, my fantasy of fronting a rock band is formed in no small part because it is cool.

I'll be eager to watch Andrew chart his own course - to resist the temptation to live vicariously through his experiences and let them be what they are for him.

Go get 'em kid - it's o.k., you're with the band!

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