If you spent five years or just a single season in marching band, whether in a group of 30 or 300, there are some universal experiences that we have all shared. From inter-band rivalries and friendships, to the holy grail at freezing competitions (a.k.a. a fried Oreo stand), to the inevitable dancing to "The Cupid Shuffle" at winter guard shows, these events cannot be replicated or explained to outsiders.
1. You have no life outside of band.
We make jokes like "we have no life" and "band is life," but it's not much of an exaggeration. If you try to make plans with me on a Friday night or Saturday in the fall, this is the response you can expect:
2. Memorizing things is second nature to you.
Learning a ten-minute show your freshman year may have been tough, but with time you became an expert at memorizing music and drill. If it rained the day you were learning new drill and your dots washed away, it's no problem. You've already got it down. You can probably still play the ballad from your freshman year, if you tried hard enough.
3. You have a very characteristic set of tan lines.
We all have an awful dot book sunburn at band camp and a vivid sock tan at least through November, but especially unlucky are the saxophones. Those neck strap tan lines are less than cute, and do they ever truly fade?
4. "One more time" never actually means one more time.
Let's face it: "one more time" is a lie that band directors tell us to feed the tiny shred of hope that we have that we may not have to run the same set over again for the next half hour.
5. All water is holy when you've been marching all day.
Sometimes, instructors forget that we need water to live. While that's reasonable, it's hard to sing your part with much gusto when your mouth feels like the Sahara Desert. A 30-second "gush and go" may sound pointless to non-band members, but we know that a few sips of glorious water are worth the sprint.
6. You hear the metronome in your sleep.
I'm looking at you, Dr. Beat. I can still hear that specific "click-click-click-click" in my head now as I think of it. The only thing worse than hearing the met for hours on end is when the Long Ranger malfunctions and it starts to sound like a broken printer exacting its revenge on the human race.
7. Band couples.
One thing that seems to be universal across all bands is that everyone in them seems to be dating each other. And then they break up, and date some of their other friends, and so on. It seems as though everyone in the band has gone out with everyone else, or you can at least play Six Degrees of Separation with two peoples' dating history. On top of that, some of these couples are just too much. I understand that you've been dating for a week and you're "so in love," but the band bus is not the place to consummate your relationship.
8. That uniform leaves you hot in the summer but cold in the winter.
Whatever kind of poly-cotton blend that uniform is made out of, it is not comfortable in any weather except for maybe one competition in October. Meanwhile, at a football game in August, you will undoubtedly look like this:
9. Band camp is the worst...
Hours learning drill in the beautiful July sunshine? Enough said.
10. ...Except for parades.
I have never met a single person who enjoyed marching in a parade, but our moms and principals like hearing us play the fight song on repeat as we march past, so we do it anyway.
11. You can't help but be early to everything.
After years of waking up at the crack of dawn after the few hours of sleep between Friday's football game and Saturday's practice, you have the mantra "If you're early, you're on time; If you're on time, you're late; If you're late, you're dead," ingrained into your head and you still sort of believe that you'll have to run laps if you show up late to coffee with a friend.
12. You're fluent in the language of band.
You don't really stop to think about it, but if you're in band, you have kind of an extensive, weird vocabulary. We use words like "cover-downs." "parade rest," "horns to the box," and "drum major," and they're often met with a look of confusion, like this one:
13. You've had to explain to everyone you know that it's not "just walking."
We get a P.E. credit for marching band for a reason. It may not be as intensive as traditional sports, but we condition, do physical training and sweat just like everyone else. Those instruments get heavy...plus have you seen our calves while we backward march at a 6-to-5, going over two yard lines in 12 counts? Exactly.
14. Nothing grosses you out anymore.
After years of sitting in front of the trumpets, walking through the valley of the shadow of death--I mean, the trombone section--or *shudders* playing clarinet, you're no stranger to spit. Or sweat. Or whatever is on the floor in the percussion section's part of the room. Thanks, band!
15. You have a huge, awesome, built-in family.
No matter what happens, you have a huge support system and friends who go through it all with you. Win together or lose together, you're family. And that's awesome.
In the end, band definitely has its ups and downs, but it is the place where you learn your most important life lessons and form your strongest relationships, all while being a part of a really cool piece of living art.