Tag Archives: Marching Band

What Does It Mean To Win?

I don’t care who they march for or how they score … there’s just something ridiculously endearing about band kids.

Read the Chicago Tribune article and watch a behind-the-scenes video of Marian Catholic High School before the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis.

I love their band director’s advice. “The (trophy) cup is actually empty when you look at it,” he says. “Your quest needs to be: How well can you perform tomorrow — is there another level?”

The image of each kid filling that cup with their accomplishments makes me smile.

And he told them the definition of the word ”˜win’ ”” “To get possession of something by effort.”

Using that definition, what are some things you’ve won?

Bugler’s Holiday Mania

Every time I mention Bugler’s Holiday, people ask me about it. So here it is in all its fabulousness …

The US Coast Guard Band:


One guy! Playing all three parts!


I wish they would have done this just with the vocals. It’s terrific until they start playing. But it’s a good illustration of how difficult the piece is to play:


You likey? I likey. Which was your fave version?

Marching Fundamentals

This is fascinating. No, really! Please don’t look at me like that.

The University of Texas Longhorn Band breaks down their marching fundamentals into step-by-step video tutorials. Go look at a couple (they’re short and they load quickly), even if you’re not interested in marching band. It will give you new respect for marching band kids and the skill it takes to march well.

Did you find it ”” if not as fascinating as I did ”” at least interesting? Did you garner new respect for marching band geeks? Are you ignoring me on purpose?

Name That Sax

I’ve recently discovered Google Alerts. All I did was spend three minutes teaching it my name, the name of my blog, and the phrases ”˜marching band’ and ”˜synesthesia’ and ”” poof ”” every day, like magic, something new and wonderful pops into my email inbox.

First, let me just say how ridiculously thrilling it is to read other blogs where people refer to you in complimentary ways. Ridiculously. Thrilling.

Second, it’s also thrilling when I know I can provide help to some other blogger.

Case in point …I was alerted to a blog written by an 18-year-old former marching band student. He attended the Penang Free School which my extraordinarily mad detective skillz, ie, Wikipedia,  found to be located in Malaysia.  It’s been in continuous operation since 1816 and many famous people went there. Here are three that jumped out at me:
• Tunku Abdul Rahman, First Prime Minister and founding father of Malaysia.
• Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, second Chief Minister of Penang.
• Dato’ Eddy Choong, former All-England Badminton champion.

This young man’s blog linked to the PFS band blog which has a ton of fun photos.

It also has a YouTube video of one of their competitions that I just loved so I’m posting it here for your viewing pleasure. Watch for fantastic, crowd-pleasing drum major stick tosses. And notice … no percussion pit.


It’s nice to know “woohoo” means exactly the same thing on every continent. (Well, maybe not Antarctica.) It kinda makes me feel like I speak a second language.

And the band experience translates as well. This is what he says:

In the band, you push yourself worse than military cadets. Ironically, you love doing it! Pushing yourself further when you are dead tired, telling yourself to force that note out despite your breathlessness. You do push because that very passion in you pumps you further. You know that you will enjoy the ecstasy of the note you play although there is no room for thought in your mind for the suffocation is oppressing your brain to dead stop. Still, the satisfaction of a good show, especially in a competition will not only make you feel good, but it is very, very possible to reduce you to tears once you hear the audience cheer endlessly for your band. Tears not of joy, nor of pain. But tears of being extremely proud of being a member of the PFS Band. That feeling, my friends, cannot be matched even by flooding your system with endorphin!

But here’s the cry for help. This young man is asking for help in naming his saxophone. So, everybody …. Hop over there and give him some ideas.

“Becky” would be a lovely name for a saxophone, don’t you think?

Blind Marching Band

Even though my friend George was in charge of the ENTIRE Tournament of Roses Parade, I had to find out about one of Pasadena’s invited marching bands from a news station in New Zealand!

The Ohio State School for the Blind has the honor of being the first blind marching band in the United States.

Yes, you read that right. A blind marching band. The director’s motto is “If it can’t be done, let’s do it anyway.” What a remarkable man to throw down a gauntlet like this to his kids and what extraordinary students to not only accept the challenge, but to do it up right.

In case you were wondering … yes, I got verklempt as I watched. I’m looking for footage of their Rose Parade appearance, but can’t find it. Anyone?

I’m awed and inspired. Take a look at the video and tell me what you think.

Great BeckyLand Think Off

The Great American Think-Off is America’s premier amateur philosophy contest. Possibly America’s only premier amateur philosophy contest. It’s an essay contest in its 17th year started as a way for ordinary citizens to express their opinions on weighty matters.

These are some topics they’ve had in the past:

2007: Which should you trust more ”” your head or your heart?
2006: Which is more valuable to society: safety or freedom?
2005: Competition or cooperation: which benefits society more?
2003: Do we reap what we sow?
2000: Is democracy fair?
1999: Which is more dangerous — science or religion?
1998:  Is honesty always the best policy?
1996:  Does God exist?
1994:  Does life have meaning?
1993:  The nature of humankind:  inherently good or inherently evil?

The 2009 essay and debate question is “Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?”

If you want to enter THEIR contest, just submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1, 2009. Their website states, “The key to writing a successful essay is to ground your argument in personal experience. The judges are looking for essays that address this central problem of moral philosophy by speaking about personal experience rather than abstract philosophical reasoning. Tell a good story that shows a firm standing on one side or the other of this philosophical divide.”

Not to be outdone, here at BeckyLand my crack team of extraordinary thinker-types have put together a BeckyLand Essay Topic ….

“Marching band is the only worthwhile extra-curricular activity.”

Here are the rules:

• Answer yes or no, then support your position. You can use scratch paper and a calculator, but show your work.

• Prizes are as follows:
First place: Nothing
Second place: Nada
Third place: Zip

Good luck and let the bickering begin!

2008 Marching Band Competition

Here it is … what you’ve all been waiting for … cyber drum roll, please ….

The Chaparral High School Marching Band is officially the 9th best band in Colorado!

Their final score was 73.25, only 0.6 points behind eighth place. The also took home a plaque for the most improved band. That award is given to the band that increases their score the most from last year’s state competition.

I am exceedingly proud of all of them … especially my fabulous tuba-playing son. If you’re paying attention ”” and, really, why wouldn’t you be? ”” you’ll see a close-up of him doing a happy, shiny tuba flip. It comes right after my extremely bad camera work. In my defense, I hardly ever use the video camera anymore so I couldn’t keep the camera from jiggling, find my son, AND remember where the zoom was. So sue me.

They work so hard ”” sweltering through summer band camp on the hot asphalt of the student parking lot where they rehearse … trying to convince non-band students to move their cars off the 50-yard line so they can practice after school … marching in every kind of weather … late nights, early mornings ”” all for a ten-minute production.

In the summertime when the band was rehearsing, the football players came over and marveled at how much harder the band kids work than football players work. If you ever want to get a band kid all blustery and righteous, point out that football players get PE credit just for being on the team, but band students don’t. Then stand back!

I’ll apologize in advance for the woo-hooing in your ear in the video. I tried to control myself, but, alas, could not. But it’s not just me. The whole crowd does the same thing. And just so you know, videotape does NOT do this band justice. When they play to the backfield then turn and blast that wall of sound right at you … well, it’s pretty darn close to a religious experience. Definitely not an exaggeration to say it can give you a full-body shimmy.

Enjoy ….


Did it give you a full-body shimmy? Goosebumps? Lump in your throat? Do you love the marching band with every fiber of your being?!

It Wasn’t My Fault

I met Alison Lohans on Facebook recently. (Isn’t that where everyone meets these days?!) And we started gabbing about books and writing and I learned her new book, THIS LAND WE CALL HOME, is short-listed for the Young Adult Book category of the Saskatchewan Book Awards. It’s YA historical fiction dealing with the World War II Japanese American relocation camps. As soon as I can, I’ll do a First Page Book Review on it. Can’t wait!

We’ve also been gabbing about marching band and she told me she wrote a short story several years ago set in the marching band. I told her I’d love to see it, she got permission from her publisher, and voila! Here is part one of IT WASN’T MY FAULT for your reading enjoyment.



© Alison Lohans, 1993
Excerpted from LAWS OF EMOTION by ALISON LOHANS, Thistledown Press with the permission of Thistledown Press.

It was all Mr. Baxter’s fault.

Not that I happened to be sitting next to Adam Messick at the football game. That was an accident. The way we file into the stands after doing our intro on the field, we often end up sitting next to kids we don’t know all that well. So sitting next to Adam was no big deal.

It was Mr. Baxter’s fault. Because of the rain.

It was our final game of the season. We had a thrilling record of one win and six losses. The field was soggy because it had rained on and off for several days. Our marching shoes were caked with mud. My best friend Tina Mihalowicz, who was sitting next to me too, had her uniform legs spattered with mud. Out on the playing field our gold-and-white team was rapidly turning brown. And we were getting clobbered. It was only the first quarter.

I felt crummy.

Not because of the way the Cougars were turning us to clowns. Not because of the mud. It had nothing to do with Mr. Baxter. Or Adam.

Tina and I were supposed to be going to the after-game dance. I was devastated. Not because of the dance. But I’d counted on spending some time there with Reilly Higgins – only when I’d been on my way from biology to sixth period English, I’d seen him in the hallway talking to Lisa Morrelli. Not just talking. Looking positively mesmerized was more like it.

I waved and said hi (almost brushing against him), but Reilly never even noticed. I could’ve melted with humiliation, right into a giant oily spot on the tiles.

Tina nudged me with her trumpet. She has an uncanny way of reading my mind. “Higgins Piggins,” she said. “I bet he gets a faceful of mud out there.”

“I’ll throw it anytime,” I offered.

A yell rose up from the other side of the stadium. One of the Cougars was loping toward the goal line. Our number 38 fell flat in the mud. I laughed out loud. Reilly – served the jerk right. The Cougars scored and their pep band blasted out their school song. One of our drummers tapped out a little competition.

It started raining. Again.

It seemed fitting, considering the way I felt.

The instant the Cougar band quit, Mr. Baxter was snapping his fingers. “Okay, guys – Devastators theme. One, two, one, hit it!”

Right away we became a whirlwind of sound. Tina’s and my trumpets screamed out high notes. Adam’s clarinet shrilled a trill. The percussion section pounded out a throbbing rhythm so catchy I halfway expected to see the whole crowd stand up and start dancing. That was one thing about our band. Our football team might be pathetic. Our field might be muddy. It might be raining – but we were good and everybody knew it.

Mr. Baxter had to stop us for the kickoff. One of the drummers played a crescendoing roll as the figures on the field ran slow-motion toward the up-ended ball. Tina’s trumpet sang out Charge! The crowd roared as the ball shot into the air.

“Mr. B.,” said Adam once the game was underway. “It’s raining.” Mr. Baxter had a way of being impervious to weather. Sometimes I got the feeling he’d keep us playing even if a twister started cleaning off the football field.

Mr. Baxter just smiled pleasantly and pulled his hat down over his ears. “I noticed.”

“Oh come on Derek, you idiot!” Tina shrieked. “Clobber him!” And she jumped to her feet, waving her trumpet to get her point across.

The rain came down harder. It flattened my hair and made cold trickles on my scalp. The stadium lights cast pale pools over the action on the field – only now there was more action and more pools, jillions of jiggly raindrops and multiplying puddles on the track. Already I could imagine how our shoes would squish through them as we marched out for the halftime show.

Tina wiped rain out of her face. “Mr. B.? Are we still doing our halftime show?”

“We shall see,” our director said ambiguously. The ranks broke on the football field, and again he was snapping his fingers. “’Peter Gunn.’ One-and-two-and-three-and-GO!” The trombones and baritones belted out the intro. Tina and I and the other trumpets were ready with our jazzy melody. On the track, Lisa Morrelli and the other rally girls danced in the mud. Their pom-poms looked like bundles of wet chicken feathers.

My music was getting soggy; it drooped in my trumpet lyre. Halfway through the piece it wilted completely and did me as much good as a used Kleenex – but I had the piece memorized anyhow.

Adam wiped the rain off his glasses when we finished. “You should laminate your music, Stacey,” he said.

I looked at his. It sat in his lyre, perky as a peacock’s tail in full bloom. “Maybe next time,” I said.

People in the crowd were grumbling about the rain and paying little attention to the game. The players were all so muddy it was hard to tell which team was which.

“Maybe they’ll call off the game,” I muttered.

Adam turned to me with mock surprise. His glasses were a blur of wobbling wetness. “Stacey! Where’s your school spirit?”

“In the mud.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“In the mud,” Tina joined in.

“Mr. B.,” our drum major said tactfully, “don’t you think this much rain is bad for our uniforms? Being wool and all, don’t you think they might shrink?”

Mr. Baxter nodded. “The thought had crossed my mind. Okay, troops, fall out. See you back on the spot in street clothes in fifteen minutes.”

We let out a huge groan.

In the stands, what was left of the crowd was on its feet, screaming. One of our guys was sloshing toward the goal line, football tucked beneath his arm.

“Go Eagles!” Tina screeched, jumping up and down. Her trumpet clipped me on the ear. “Oops. Sorry, Stacey.” She grinned apologetically as the player scored our first and only touchdown.

Adam grinned at me too. “Injured?”

“Only my dignity,” I murmured, rubbing my ear.

We ambled back to the music room to change. Some kids were furious. “How’re we supposed to go to the dance?” a flute player wailed. “Now we won’t even have dry clothes to change into.”

“Same as everybody else,” said Adam. “Dripping wet.”

“Oh sure. They won’t be forced to sit in the rain for two hours.”

Tina checked her watch. “Only one hour and twelve minutes now,” she commented. “Fifty-seven minutes, by the time we get back.”

The girl turned on her. “How come you’re on his side?”

Tina just grinned and brushed her sopping hair back from her face. “Who said I was?”

“I’m not going back. If he asks where I am, tell him I threw up. Because I will, if I have to sit through one more second of that repulsive game.”

In the band room several other deserters were packing up their instruments. Tina looked at me. I looked at her. “Oh what the heck,” I said. “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Atta girl!” Tina applauded and ushered me into the girls’ changing room. It smelled of wet wool and stinky socks. Tina kicked off her muddy marching shoes. “Gross! Where’s the air freshener?”

I wiggled into my tights and top. “Don’t worry, we’ll be getting plenty of fresh air.” At least Reilly would be worse off. He was muddy – and how would it feel to have rain hammering down on your football helmet all the time? Awful, I hoped.

“Higgins iggins biggins piggins,” Tina warned. “You need somebody smarter.”

“Like who?” I demanded, poking my arms into my sweater. “Adam?” He just happened to be the first guy to pop into my head.

“Hm.” Tina paused, comb in her stringy hair. “You could do worse.”

“No way! I was only kidding. C’mon, aren’t you ready?”

Tina pulled on her jacket and blocked the doorway. “Smile, Stacey.”

I stuck out my tongue.

Only a few of us straggled back to the stadium. The rain hadn’t stopped.

“What’re we trying to prove?” grumbled one of the saxophone players.

“That we are individuals with character?” A tuba player explored possibilities of using his huge instrument as an umbrella.

“Shove it, Wallace.”

“Look out!” Tina screeched.

I looked up. Hurtling toward us from the top of the bleachers was a yellow balloon, obviously filled with something heavier than air. We scattered. My feet slipped in the muck and I fell sideways. Somebody landed on top of me.

To be continued ….

What do you think? Wanna read more?

More Band High Jinx

I heard another great marching band story.

They had a late band rehearsal one night and an early call the next morning for a competition. One boy, let’s call him Squiggy, lived far from the high school and couldn’t get a ride home.

As a parent, this part of the story made me cock my head, furrow my brow, AND go all squinty-eyed. But I’ve been assured it’s true.

So Squiggy couldn’t get home and even if he did, he’d just have to turn around and get back to school for their early call. Being a resourceful kid, he asked one of his friends to lock him in a tuba locker and then let him out the next morning.

I’d like to interject here that I’m not quite sure why Squiggy felt the need to get locked in. Nor can anyone explain it to me. But It reminds me of Gary Larson getting complaints about the flies in his Far Side cartoons. People would complain, “Flies wouldn’t say that!” totally forgetting that flies don’t talk. In that same way, getting LOCKED in a tuba locker seems over the top. Spending the night, sure. Perfectly logical.

At any rate, all went as planned at Tuba Motel and it’s still a widely-known secret to this day.

I’m sure there are a zillion things band directors are happy not to know, and yet, how can you not be curious about these kinds of escapades?

Our previous band director instigated “Senior Confessions” which were always held on the last band trip of the season. He’d gather all the seniors and they’d each confess one thing for which they’d be given amnesty. They ranged from the small ”” “I thought I was a lesbian until the 9th grade band trip” ”” to the large ”” “I never learned the fight song.”

Lest you think I made a mistake in that last sentence, I was told at least 463 times that there’s nothing worse than not learning the fight song in four years. (Well, almost nothing. I have another band story to be told at a later date.)

I don’t make this stuff up! But it’s why I like hanging out with band kids … they have particularly entertaining stories.

Senior Confessions is a great way for a director to keep his finger on the pulse of the band students, but I’m fairly certain Tuba Locker Motel never came up.

Tell me more Band Confessions. I grant you amnesty too!

PS – If you like the marching band posts ”” and how could you not ”” I always give them their own category so you can find them easily. See up at the top, right under the title where it says “filed under Becky’s marching band”? If you click that, you should be able to see all my marching band posts. If you click on “filed under marching band,” you’ll find other blogs about marching band. I still need to explore more, but so far, the majority of them are not that interesting ”” mostly set up by directors to communicate with their band. As soon as I find one that rocks, I’ll let you know. And if you find one, let ME know!