The Typical Series of Events of a Midwestern Highschool Band’s Trip to the State Marching Competitio

10:00 AM:  The band members arrive at the school to do a final run through of the show before boarding the buses.  During the run through, moods are tense.  The Drum majors are terse, and conduct with determined, sharp, choppy motions.  Section leaders and seniors are particularly moody, yelling things like: “Come on, guys!  We’ve been through this a hundred times!” 
     Band parents litter the hillside cheering support.  The less dedicated have their video cameras out, as they won’t be traveling the 50 miles or so to the actual competition.  The more dedicated have their video cameras out as well, prepared to film everything.

10:45 AM:  The run through is finished.  The director gives a brief pep talk over his/her megaphone, and everyone rushes to the buses.  The seating arrangement in the buses is crucial, and is on the mind of most everyone.  It’s open seating, but your decision now will determine who you sit with for the next hour or so, and, if things go well, the way back as well.  A small minority are already in relationships, most likely with other band members, and they of course pair up accordingly.  Everyone else scrambles.  Trumpets, chairs 1-5, are in high demand, with flags, flutes, and the occasional saxophone hoping to score a seat next to one of them.  The guys that participate in sports as well as band are also in high demand.  Percussion has it’s own bus, and are coed enough that they can just pass “seat mates” around.  For the more awkward guys, it’s a game of getting a seat near a flute or a flag, hoping to get their attention at some point during the ride.  Lines like: “Your nuts are delicious” after taking some of her peanuts can be particularly effective.
     A good portion of the band does not participate in the “bus ride hook up game”.  Included are the Tubas, who all sit together at the back of one of the buses, the clarinets, save a few of the lesser chairs, about half of the saxophones, a quarter of the low brass, and the oboe player, who sits with the clarinets.  He puts on the “not a threat” face, and joins in their female conversations even though he secretly wants to get with at least one of them.

11:00 AM:  The head counts are done, and the buses are off. The clarinets have started up games of pitch, playing atop hat boxes or garment bags.  The tubas are playing with duct tape.  Percussion is being rowdy, and has pissed off the band parent assigned to their bus.  The boys mentioned earlier are trying their best jokes, or doing other boyish things that they think will impress the girls.  One of the trombones is using his instrument for a giant blow gun.  He and his friends think that it’s awesome, but the girls are generally grossed out.  Most of the section leaders, and a good number of the seniors are commiserating about the quality of the show this year and how they’d better get a 1.  Two situations can exacerbate this:  The band hasn’t been as good the past couple years, so the seniors have yet to get a 1 at state, or the band has gotten a 1 every year the seniors have been there, and they’re determined to get 1’s across the board.  The trombone section leader doesn’t give a flying fuck about any of this, and is busy trying to get high with the 2nd chair by inhaling the gas out of whipped cream cans.  This is largely ineffective and results primarily in choking on whipped cream, and probably getting some sort of high from the lack of oxygen while trying to swallow all of it.
     Band parents drive along side the buses all the while honking and waving signs.

12:00 PM:  The buses arrive at the competition after getting lost and driving around aimlessly for some time.  The place is a mad house.  Other bands are already warming up, others are standing around goofing off, and some are in line for their turn to perform.  General chaos ensues.  The upperclassmen are putting their uniform tops back on.  The underclassmen are terrified that they’ll loose something or get left behind, and were not confident enough to take their uniform tops off, even though it’s cool to wear just your bibs.

12:15 PM:  The band debarks the buses, and heads to the equipment truck where band dads are busy unloading.  Everyone stands by waiting for his/her instrument to be unloaded.  Instruments are then taken out of the cases, and the empty cases are put back on the truck while the racket of instruments being warmed up fills the air.

12:30 PM:  The band gets into a block formation on the warm up field and the drum majors start the warm up routine which consists of a concert B flat scale played through 3 times: first as whole notes, then as quarter notes, and finally as triplets.  The more cocky players throw in arpeggios and stuff, and are snapped at by section leaders and seniors.

12:31 PM:  Tuning.  The clarinet section leader tunes his instrument and then plays a couple tuning notes for the band.  General instruction coming from the stronger players to the weaker ones to “push in” or “pull out” ensues.

12:35 PM:  The band is now ready to go, but has 45 minutes before their turn.  Standing around occurs.  Goofing off is minimal, and if it does occur, is most likely in the tuba section, and is quickly stifled by section leaders.

1:00 PM:  The band gets into parade formation and walks down to the field to get into the “on deck” position.

1:18 PM:  The band marches down to the field with a quiet cadence either led by the snare section leader or “shhs” by the whole band.

1:20 PM:  After another quick pep talk from the director, the band takes the field.  Band parents go crazy and wave signs and release balloons.  Other band parents are on the field scurrying here and there putting props and percussion equipment in place.  At least one person trips and falls.  He/she is unhurt, but embarrassed.

1:35 PM:  The show is done, the band exits the field and heads over to have pictures taken.  A clarinet underclassman hyperventilates and barely makes it off the field.  While the band parents attend to her, news of this occurrence rapidly sweeps through the band, the condition getting worse with each telling.  Concern fills the air and everyone tries to get a glimpse of the victim.

1:40 PM:  The girl’s fine.  The band is packed onto the bleachers for the picture.  One serious picture is taken followed by one goofy one.  Parents stand by eagerly waiting to greet their children and tell them what an outstanding job they did.

1:50 PM:  Instruments are loaded back on the truck.  The buses become coed changing rooms.

2:00 PM:  The buses take the band to the mall to hang out and find something to eat before the award ceremony.  Most of the guys head to Spensor Gifts while the girls hit up Limited Too and Hot Topic.

6:00 PM:  Everyone returns to the field to watch the remaining bands and wait for the awards.  The “hook up” game continues.  Girls that received the “your nuts are delicious line” huddle up with the guys that used it.  There is general judging of the other bands.  Things like “Their lines are terrible” or “We’re way better” are said.

7:00 PM:  Awards.  The band is given a 1 and they rush the field.  Everyone is ecstatic.  An inter-school  percussion group spontaneously forms and begins pounding out cadences.  A massed band dance begins on the field complete with grinding.  Most people still have their bibs on, so this is particularly hot.

10:00 PM:  The band gets back on the buses to go home.  Everyone is in high spirits.  A lot of making out happens.  Rumor spreads that one couple is fingering each other.  Guys are intrigued–they can’t figure out how one pulls that off in the band pants.  Girls turn up their noses and say things like “what a slut”.  The oboe player quickly agrees with the girls.

11:00 PM:  The buses arrive back at the school.  Everyone gets off the buses.  Many of the guys are discovering what “blue balls” is for the first time, except for that one guy…


2 thoughts on “The Typical Series of Events of a Midwestern Highschool Band’s Trip to the State Marching Competitio

  1. I would say my experiences as a band member were similar, although our band was obviously a lot smaller. I was at one time or another the following: flag runner (where jr. high kids get to ride along with the big kids and run the flags out to the flag corps during the performance), clarinetist, auxiliary percussion (no marching!), and drum major (limited marching!). You guys had to wear your uniforms on the bus?!? We were allowed to wear shorts and t-shirts and then put the uniform on in the parking lot. Much better.

    Also, there was less making out on our buses.

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