I’m a marching band parent, and one who probably fits every stereotype you may have of marching band parents: I wear a “Marching Band Mom” pin when the spirit moves me; I alternate it with a pin adorned with a photo of my piccolo-playing child wearing full marching band regalia.
I cheer like an idiot when the marching bands — home and away — take to the field. I post marching band videos on Facebook.
When my fellow editors pitch stories at news meetings, I am inclined to pipe in (pun truly not intended) with a marching band story idea.
Every chance I get, I expound on the joys of marching band as a socialization opportunity for kids. The camaraderie! The connection! The instant and lasting friendships!
Had I to do it all over again, I would have ditched my guitar — useful at the folk Masses at my Catholic high school, but not so useful at halftime — for a marching band instrument.
(Yes, I could have joined color guard. But I’m not all that coordinated. I would have poked someone else’s eye out — or, more likely, my own — with my colorful flag.)
When my child joined marching band, I was a bit daunted by the other marching band parents. They were so … enthusiastic. They wore T-shirts emblazoned with the name of our marching band boosters association, though “boosters” didn’t quite convey the zeal and reverence with which these parents spoke of marching band.
I am not a cheerleader-y person. And I wasn’t a T-shirt kind of person, either. I made an exception only for Phillies games (and, before he was traded, for Jimmy Rollins).
Now I own a marching band T-shirt, and my marching band jacket is on its way. The minute I saw my sometimes snarky but always brilliant child don a hat with a feathered plume, I was a goner.
If the banders — yes, that’s what we marching band people call members of marching bands — could commit to wearing black oxford shoes called Dinkles, I could geek out a bit, too.
My respect for banders was sealed by seeing just how hard they work.
For several summer weeks, banders spend whole days in the heat, learning and practicing their shows — the music, the marching, the routine. Parents are generally on hand to offer juice breaks, and marching band directors make sure the kids stay hydrated, but a band camp day is still exhausting.
The banders run laps to get in shape, because it takes stamina to perform a show — you try moving around a football field while playing an instrument. Tubas and field percussion equipment are heavy; trumpets require lung power; wind instruments also demand breath control; and color guard members have to run back and forth across a football field wielding 6-foot poles.
The rigors of band camp are mixed with band camp traditions, which vary by school. But band camp still is a test of endurance, a grueling sprint to get ready for the season.
Once band camp is over and school begins, practices continue — my bander has two three-hour practices a week during band season, in addition to football game performances, marching band exhibitions and parades. Then there are private flute and piccolo lessons, too — because even after marching band season ends, symphonic band will continue.
Marching band requires commitment (the enjoyable kind, not the mental health kind, though I occasionally wonder if both kinds apply). But the rewards are many.
Watching my kid’s marching band take the field after hundreds of hours of practice is nothing short of thrilling. And I see in my bander’s face the immense pride in all the work, all the sweat, all the sacrifice that’s been expended to get that show in shape.
I see the friendships that have grown during the long hours of band camp, the rides to away games and exhibitions, the torture that is marching for miles in a parade while holding one’s posture straight and keeping one’s instrument in playing position.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Because, avid marching band parent that I now am, I find the lack of respect that’s shown to marching bands dismaying.
I understand that the parents of football players are at games to see their kids play, as I am there to see my bander perform. But while your kid is blocking and tackling and running downfield, I am in the stands, cheering for him.
I’d like to see the favor returned.
Just as your kid spent hours practicing in the summer heat, mine did, too. So, if it’s possible, could you delay that trip to the concession stands or restroom until after the marching band performs? Or maybe take a breather from breaking down football plays in the stands and turn your attention to the show?
I’m asking the same of the student spirit section. And everyone in the stands.
The banders will appreciate it. And trust me: You don’t want to incur the wrath of a marching band parent.
Suzanne Cassidy is the Opinion editor at LNP. Email: [email protected]ews.com. Phone: 717-291-8694. Twitter: @SuzCassidyLNP.
Tuesday’s LNP will feature a marching band preview.