And the marching band plays on

Published 2:07 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
I am often amazed at the changes that have taken place in high schools since I was handed my diploma almost 12 years ago. I am also amazed at how I have been out of the public school system now the same number of years that I was in it. Those 12 years of waking up and dragging myself to home room seemed like 20 years. The past 12 years seems more like six. Somehow that doesn't seem fair. But, besides my concept of time, a stroll across a high school campus today reveals many new and exciting things.
Where my generation learned about computers by copying definitions of RAM and COBAL from a chalkboard, today students can do their homework on word processors and research term papers with the Internet.
Where me and my classmates were stranded on a never ending cycle of one-hour lectures every single day, today's teenager may learn about history or literature through interactive study aids or a Power Point presentation.
A lot has certainly changed and those changes can be seen everyday at high schools everywhere. But, just when I think I can no longer relate to the average teenager, I see something that reminds me of my days as a high school student and I realize that things aren't that different after all.
The most recent 'observation' was Saturday's Dixieland Band Festival hosted by T.R. Miller High School. The hard work and sacrifice of the thousands of students who participated in the event took me right back to the days when I wore those shoes.
I stumbled my way into band during junior high and it turned into an obsession that lasted through my first year of college. I was so involved that I considered pursuing a career as a band director.
Most people don't think about the hard work and sacrifice that goes into performing. If they do, it is for a split second during a halftime show. But, for these students, it is a year-long commitment and the halftime show is only the beginning.
As I watched bands perform during the festival Saturday, I remembered how important it was to maintain an interval, roll your feet, keep your horn up, and generally know when to move, stop and turn. All of this, on top of knowing the music. None of this comes easy as it requires countless hours of hard work.
As I recall, there were two things that really mattered as a result of a performance - crowd reaction and score. These students are looking to get your attention during halftime performances and nothing makes them feel better than a stadium full of people rising in unison after a high point of the show. The only thing that might top that is the reading of "one, one, one for an overall one" at competition.
Like sports and other extracurricular activities, band allows students to learn the value of team work. During a performance and in practices, social statuses and popularity go out of the window. They know they are all part of one team and that only together can they achieve their goals.
Some of these students will be so dedicated they may find a career in music and others may simply look back from time to time with great fondness. Some will march in college or maybe even in a drum corps. The others will simply accept that their marching days are over when they receive a diploma. Perhaps these students will visit their school in 10 years and recognize that very little has changed.

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