Energies: At Rest (A Photo Tribute to Marching Bands, Part IV)

The fourth and final part of this photographic celebration of high school marching bands isn’t potential or kinetic or unusual.

It’s the end of the show.

The awards ceremonies.

Whole bands sitting in the stands, cheering the winners’ exhibition performance in a display of sportsmanship we probably ought not take for granted.

It’s the entire extended band family bidding farewell to two Millers after thirty amazing years.

Starting tomorrow, for several consecutive weeks, it will all happen again. Some of the same youth and lots of new ones will perform new shows for the first time in competition — and, too soon, for the last time.

Another year of work and discipline. Another season of beauty and grace.

It’s one of the world’s goods.

At Rest

American Fork High School Marching Band

Energies: Potential (A Photo Tribute to Marching Bands, Part I)

Introduction — and My Marching Band Withdrawal

After four years with a mellophone player in the American Fork High School Marching Band, our household is marching band-free. For me there are some withdrawal pangs.

In those four years I went to show after show; visited band camp a few times; made a feature-length documentary about the band and a shorter video tribute to a retiring director, John Miller; dabbled at social media; wrote press releases, blog posts, and newspaper features; edited others’ newspaper columns about the marching band experience; and attended one competition after another.

I worked with parents and other boosters, directors, and staff from print and broadcast media outlets. I even sent the trumpet I played through my first year of college to Grand Nationals and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to be played, of course, by someone much younger.

Along the way I met more fine people than I can count — and not just band students. Virtually everyone I met seemed to know what I tried to remember throughout: We weren’t the story. The story was — is — the kids, their music, their show.

I am not a photographer, as you will quickly see, but I snapped some photos along the way. Here are a few from state and regional competitions in St. George, Utah, last fall. I offer them to help us get in the mood for marching band, if we’re not already, and perhaps also to relieve my withdrawal symptoms.

Music Is the Heart

I know the educational reasons for having music programs — and drama and sports and other such programs in schools. At least I know most of them. I know that these efforts, seriously engaged in, develop the mind, the heart, the body, the character — the person. I know they are a laboratory, in which youth can explore excellence in a relatively safe, supervised environment. I wrote about that once, in a season when the human cost of such efforts had become heroically, tragically high, and it was natural to wonder if it was worth it.

It is worth it. The reasons make sense to me, and I see them in action in my children, just as I see them retrospectively in myself, playing in the high school band from eighth grade, playing on the basketball team, and singing for two years in a fine ensemble we called the Snake River High School Chamber Singers.

SRHS Chamber Singers, Disneyland, June 1982
Snake River High School Chamber Singers, Disneyland, June 1982. At the mics are David Rodeback (holding the trumpet) and Paul Williams (with the tenor sax).

All of this justifies the cost of instruments, private lessons, and band fees — even all the oh-dark-thirty driving between home and school.

All of this makes me willing to bear the cost.

Why I am glad to bear the cost is easy to remember and easy to see. I saw and remembered it tonight. It is more difficult to describe, but that is my object here.