Friday, August 23, 2013

One time, at band camp...

The Redhead. Sweating his arse off. 

For the past three weeks, The Redhead has been immersed in marching band camp. We ended all of our summer travels early so that we'd be home on the required date, a full three weeks before the first day of school.

This was actually the second summer band camp session - the first one was the week after the previous school year ended in June. During this three day mini-session, the students were introduced to their music and the basic marching step. Sounds easy enough. It's just walking, right? Um, no. It's marching. With an unbended knee. Harder than it sounds. They glide.

During the first band camp, the only two people The Redhead knew quit band. Yep. Just up and quit. He was discouraged. He kind of dreaded coming back for band camp, but I was firm. "Music is mandatory in this family," I explained. And that was that.

I did note, however, that the "camp" schedule looked pretty hard core. He had to be there, every day, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They fed them lunch. Four hours of marching on the field in the morning, hopefully before the temperatures reached triple digits, and four hours of practicing music in the blessed air conditioning in the afternoon. It was a long day. I got up early every morning and made him a good breakfast before I dropped him off at the football stadium with his instrument. They were required to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock. They were advised to steer clear of rich foods for breakfast. And they were required to wear this:

It's called a Camelbak. Technically, it's a hands-free hydration system. I call it genius. They arrive to practice with it filled and they refill it at least once in the morning. No water bottles or cups or coolers for the band directors to deal with. No running to the water fountain. Just marching.

The first day he was exhausted. The second day he was overwhelmed and exhausted. We had a block party for National Night Out and he sat down next to me in the street in our lawn chairs. And then he cried. "It's too hard, Mom. I'll never learn all the music. There's no way I can learn all the marching steps. I don't want to do it."

Gulp. It doesn't matter how old your child gets, when they cry, it is awful. I gave him a pep talk. "You're going to learn it, I promise! You're going to play it over and over and over again and you're going to be hearing those songs in your sleep! There's no way you're not going to know it. Just wait - when you're out there at your first half-time show and you all play together and the crowd goes nuts - it will be AWESOME!" He went inside, took a shower, and went to bed.

I was concerned. I felt bad. Was I pushing him into something, just because I had done it in high school and loved it? Was it too much? Was he going to hate it and blame me? I realized that there was one big difference between his experience and the one I had: I had grown up with older brothers and a sister who were either in band or played football. Friday nights were football and marching band (not to mention Frito pie at the concession stand), from the time I was 5 years old. I grew up going to Aggie football games in Kyle Field, hearing, "Now forming at the north end of Kyle Field, the nationally famous, Fightin' Texas Aggie Band!" Chills. Every time.

But The Redhead didn't. He has lived in Alaska (no football in all that snow) and then in a tiny Texas town with a 1A school that had a surfing team, but not a football team. And here he was, in a 5A school, with a 175-member marching band. He has no idea.

The day after his breakdown, we went to the music store and picked up some supplies he needed. A few reeds - did you know they make plastic reeds now? - a flip book, a lyre, and a comfy neck strap. He seemed interested. In the parking lot of the store, he voluntarily showed me the basic steps he had learned so far. I was hopeful.

Day four dawned. I dropped The Redhead off at practice, bright and early. He was not enthusiastic. As the temperatures climbed higher, towards the triple digits that were forecasted for that day, I received a text from The Redhead.

"I just realized band is awesome."

Thank you, God. Thank you.

Was he delirious from the heat? Being sarcastic? I thought it was a possibility. But no. The group had advanced far enough that they started practicing the half-time routine while they played the music. That's where the magic happens.

I told him it was gonna be awesome.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We were over the hump.

It was a good thing, too, because the next weekend was March-a-Thon and it's exactly what it sounds like: a marching marathon. Six hours. Marching from the high school through neighborhoods and performing along the way. It's their biggest fundraiser. They get pledges for each hour that they march. Thing 1 and I followed along. From 7:00 a.m. until around 11:00. Then we wimped out and went home to the air conditioning.

The Redhead and another bass clarinet player - a senior who has taken him under her wing.
He's so hot and tired he can't keep his eyes open. 

Only 3 bass clarinets in the 175 member band.

Taking a break.
You can hear them coming.

Stopping traffic. Yes, that's a golden retriever marching with one of the band directors.

Musical soldiers. The Redhead has an Aggie cap on. 

"Did I mention how hot it is? Or that we had to march uphill the whole way?"

He's not terribly fond of the uniform. I remind him often that it is way better than the wool uniform I had to wear.

The uniform. He's not crazy about it.

Holding "set" position.

His garment bag to hold his uniform. Fancy.

Practice field.

Tonight, for the last day of band camp, the parents were invited to come to an Exhibition. It was impressive, what they've learned in three weeks.

Front and center.

They look and sound great!

Then they had a surprise for the parents. We had to go out on the field and get a lesson in marching. We shadowed our kid, learning two movements in the routine. I was not prepared. I had inappropriate footwear (Birkenstocks are not made for marching). They made us do it over and over again. And then? Our babies left us and went and watched us from the bleachers. We were bad. Real bad. But they clapped for us. Exuberantly. The Redhead met me on the sidelines after we were dismissed. "Mom, you weaved too much!" He demonstrated. "You can't do that when you march! You have to be steady."

Thing 1 and Thing 2 agreed. "You did! Your hips moved like this!" they said. And they showed me.

Tough crowd.

I think it's going to be okay. Fingers crossed. 

Royal Pride.
photo by Darlene Jules.

Clarinets rock!
photo by Darlene Jules.

photo by Darlene Jules.

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