This may come as a shock, but I was a band kid. I started playing (saxophone) in 5th grade and didn’t stop until the end of my freshman year in college (as a vibraphone player). My brother was in band. My husband was in band. My mom and dad were in band. (Sensing a trend here?) I had my first kiss in the high school percussion room, I have only dated (snare) drummers, and I married the guy that I met on my first day of high school band (over 10 years ago!). To say band played a major role in my adolescence is a serious understatement. Did I mention that my husband now runs a business that revolves around high school, college, and independent band? Right, well, there’s that, too.
So I was a band kid. When I started in 5th grade it was fairly cool- we were all very excited to pick instruments and sit in the dingy elementary school basement and learn how to squeak out a G, A, B, C, and D. We got to go into the gym and try out the different instruments and decide which one we wanted to play
for the rest of our lives until mom and dad said we could quit. As I mentioned before, I choose saxophone.
Then middle school happened and everything got awkward. Like, everything. (Middle school should just be called awkward school.) The band class on my schedule added to my awkwardness and things were, like, double awkward. Plus there were zits and that stupid unmanageable frizzy hair, of course. Let’s just say middle school was not kind to me and by the end of 8th grade I was done with the sax. (Plus, it’s awkward to say “sax” when you’re 13 because it sounds a LOT like “sex” and we were still spelling that word out in a whisper at that point.)
Before my freshman year of high school I told my parents I was quitting band. They laughed and said, “No, you’re not. We’ve got a lot invested in you and you will rise to take over the band universe, just as we’ve groomed you to do.” (Kind of kidding.) So we struck a deal: I could change instruments and play whatever I wanted as long as I stuck it out one year in high school band. So I became a percussionist. And “stuck it out” for four years.
My first day of band was in June 2005 and it was just seniors and freshman. (It’s like a get-to-know-you day… or like a freshman-drool-all-over-the-senior-boys-and-discover-that-hormones-are-a-real-thing day.) That day I told the instructor that I’d like to be in the pitt (or the front ensemble, as it should be called). Essentially it’s a bunch of differently sized metal and wood xylophones. (No, there’s actually a lot more to it, but I’m trying to keep this short. How am I doing? 482 words so far? Not bad.) Anyway, I chose pitt. So I was handed a pair of cymbals by this skinny guy with spiked hair named
Kyle Mr. Mattevi who had been introduced to us earlier that day as the newest percussion instructor (among other people). He had only graduated the summer before so he was friends with all the non-freshman kids. Anyway, this dude hands me cymbals and I’m like, “In 8 years we will be married. You can count on it!” (KIDDING. I said thanks and went back to gossiping about the snare drummers with my friends.)
Needless to say, my first year was a great year. I never ended up quitting. All my friends were in band and I turned out to be pretty good at metal xylophone (vibraphone). The next 3 years weren’t too horrible, either. Then I graduated high school, went to college, and spent all my graduation money to march a weekend drumline that forced me to forfeit my social life for 7 months. It was awesome. (That is not sarcasm.) I met percussionist with more skill that I could fathom and competed on a world level. I also spent a few years at my alma mater during the summer, teaching the younger kids in the front ensemble (just like Kyle had done after he graduated).
My years spent in band, both as a student and a teacher, hold some of the best memories. Band camp was the best and drumline was the absolute best. I wouldn’t trade any of my time in a hot, starchy uniform for anything. I learned respect, discipline, hard work, and cooperation. I learned how to take direction and how to give direction. (I also learned how to kiss, how to understand football, how to french braid (no I didn’t), and how to survive on a bus for 17 hours (hint: it involves truth or dare).)
I saw an article the other day entitled, “6 Things I Learned From my High School Band Director” and I agree completely. Band was a learning experience and an amazing “class” (plus hobby plus extra curricular plus sport plus lifestyle plus club) to be a part of. And my band director was like a real life Mr. Feeny because he started with us in 5th grade, taught at the middle school, and became the high school band director my freshman year.
On Thursday my husband, my brother, and I traveled to the same band camp we attended as kids and watched my cousin give her senior end-of-camp performance. All my memories of that annual 4-day camp came back to me and all I could do was laugh about them. Kyle was there for most of them so the entire ride I kept saying, “Do you remember when…” or “Wasn’t it so funny the night that……” or “These kids have a resort-like pool now? All we had was a lake and an algae-infested ceramic bowl!” (which my brother responded with, “I had a pool that was filled in with dirt.” Haha!)
So today I am grateful for these memories and the life that I’m living because of my involvement in band. (And also all the pictures that came from my 9 years behind an instrument!)