Essay: Concert Band

More memories of high school band.  Feel free to add your own.
Marching Band ended in mid-October with competition, though we would still continue to play the football games through the end of their season in late October or early November, depending on how many games the football team won.  There was one last march in the holiday parade, which happened the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  But after Mid-October we entered Concert Band Season.
The first part of Concert Band season was without competition. We had to prep songs to play for the holiday concert that would happen in December, not long before Christmas break.  We still called it Christmas break then.  The transition from Marching Band to Concert Band happened on the same day when we passed in our Marching Band music, which we hadn’t really needed for several weeks now, because we had it memorized. Passing in music involved JP telling us the name of the piece he was collecting, then we rummaged through our music folders, recovered the piece of music and passed it down to the first chair person who sorted it neatly and walked it up to whoever was serving as JP’s assistant.  As with everything that involves large groups, there were multiple pleas for quiet, because the thing to do after you’ve handed over a sheet of music is to continue the conversation that you were having before you were asked to locate and turn in that sheet of music. Or noodle around on your instrument. There were also multiple people who couldn’t find their piece of music and usually one or two people who weren’t paying attention and turned in the wrong piece of music.
Passing out the Concert Band music worked the same, but in reverse.  The plus of passing out music is we usually got one new piece at a time, then played it, before the next came out.  It was a lot easier to stay focused.
Our music came from some central place at the district office.  Every band director I ever had referenced going to that place and picking things out, but I never saw the room.  The music arrived in generally fairly good shape, with all the parts present and usually with enough copies for each part so photocopies did not have to be made.  A full accounting of pieces we performed has been lost to time passing, but I do recall a performance of “Colonel Bogey March” that infamous song that is whistled in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai.  I remember this piece in particular, because during one part of the performance, JP encouraged the audience to whistle, and the sight of all the parents whistling happily along had me laughing so hard I couldn’t actually play.  I also remember a performance of “Thus Spake Zarathusa,” which was just fun to play.  I’m sure we tackled things that had nothing to do with movies too.
The first semester of the year, band never had drummers present, because they had their own sixth period class so as to practice all their Marching Band drum corps stuff.  Drummers usually dropped in for fourth period band practice the two days before the band concert, but they were otherwise absent.  It was rather nice as drummers are worse than brass players for repeatedly playing past the cutoff point and noodling around.  It was such a shock my first year when the semester turned and suddenly the drummers were suddenly present; taking up space in the percussion area, being the loud and fairly obnoxious ego-driven quasi-jerks I was perpetually attracted to.
So we played a Christmas Concert (we still called it that) and we had at least one competition in winter and perhaps one in the spring.  Competition involved getting out of part or all of the school day, traveling by bus to where the competition was held and playing in front of judges, who gave us scores from one to five (they may have been in Roman Numerals: I to V) with one (I) being the highest score.  I don’t think we were a stellar Concert Band, though the stakes were lower.  It wasn’t a competition like Marching Band Competition, with all the bands in a stadium and lined up on the field together afterwards to hear the results.  We went, we played, we went home and somewhere along the line someone told us our score.
The last thing Concert Band we had to do every year was play for graduation, an activity that has made me loathe “Pomp and Circumstance” as well as graduation ceremonies in general.  Graduation took place at the Boise State University Pavilion, where the basketball team played all their games.  There was a stage constructed at one end of the court. Each graduate walked across to receive their diploma and we sat below the stage on the same level as the 500 people who needed to be announced and graduated.  Before we played our piece (sophomore year it was “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha) and other things happened during the ceremony, and every single person was announced and clapped for, JP would raise his baton and we would put our instruments to our lips and play Pomp and Circumstance, repeating all but the beginning and end over and over again while the teeming mass of graduates shuffled in and took their seats.  The song would be stuck in my head for days after the ceremony.  Strangely, we played something else for the exit, and repeated it just as many times, but it was not nearly as memorable.  Maybe it was the Triumphant March from Aida?

For me, Concert Band was just the thing you did because you were in band.  It wasn’t the fun of Marching Band, and it wasn’t the endless obligation of Pep Band, but just the class we went to every day and theoretically (at least on my part) practiced for.  It was the same kind of band I’d been doing since seventh grade.  It was fun when a piece came together and it was a good place to go in the middle of my day, but I don’t miss it as much as I miss Marching Band.

4 thoughts on “Essay: Concert Band”

  1. And as you know that's when I was out! With no real musical talent, Marching Band was my money spot/flirting zone. Boy they were pompous, those drummers. Funny how we both crushed like crazy on those boys. I think it might have been the Col. Bogey's March concert where the name Smillee came from… Jody and I were laughing so hard…

  2. Most of the stuff I really liked playing was for Jazz Band. We played "Wipe Out" in junior high (so not Jazz, but whatever) and that was just fun. I loved playing "Round Midnight," "How High the Moon," and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." In Concert Band we had a Mary Poppins medley I loved, but the boys thought it was lame, so they played it badly on purpose so we didn't have to play it. And there was a march called the "Klaxon" (I think) that was so incredibly boring to play while sitting, but became much more fun when actually marching in a parade. It was the march that got me to understand why marches were invented: to make marching fun.

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