The Beat Goes On

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marching Season has Begun.

Deana+Roberts+plays+a+warm+up+on+her+sousaphone+during+Symphonic+Band.

Abby Tow

Deana Roberts plays a warm up on her sousaphone during Symphonic Band.

Abby Tow, Staff Writer

A freshman girl sprints into the band hall in all her chicken-with-its-head-cut off glory, quietly rummaging through her duffel bag in search of the hair ties she left at home. A senior rolls her eyes, pulls one from her wrist, and tosses it her way so she can get out to practice in time. Someone slips briefly on a small, invisible pool of water left from an accidental jug spill. A drum major is directing traffic. I’m throwing an instrument case that is larger than me over my shoulder and heading out the doors as quickly as I can. After all, 4:15 is when practice starts, arriving at 4:10 is almost late, and given I’ve probably forgotten something and will need to run all the way back from the field to the school, I’ll need to allow enough time to manage all of this and be ready to warm-up by 4:05. By the end of practice it’ll be 7:00, my limbs will hardly be intact, and my nose will be slightly sunburned. Somehow still I will wake up the next morning, and I’ll do it all over again. For some reason, though, some very strange and thrilling need to be there for my teammates, some drive to learn and perform an eleven-minute combination of music and marching, I’ll love it, and I won’t want to stop.

Abby Tow
Ethan Thompson plays a group exercise on his trombone.

Some may say there is nothing easy about being part of a high school marching band. In some ways, they’re right. The heat is grueling. The muscles become sore. The tan-lines are more real than anything. But I’ll go on record any day to say that there are parts of marching band that are easy: loving the person next to you and wanting your program to succeed. Believe it or not, it’s fun. There is something magical and something that just doesn’t get old about sneaking a glance behind you during an end-zone warm up just before half-time: the muffled student section roaring, the greenish glow of the scoreboard cast over the person beside you, the smoky tinge of concession stand hot-dogs drifting from the stands. It’s special, and everyone there can feel it.

Abby Tow
Drumhead signifying Keller’s upcoming parade performance in New York.

Sometime in late spring of 2016, it was announced that in 2018 the Keller Marching Band would be performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While this is grand and all, and of course we are all thrilled and anxious for these great things to come, we can only afford to be excited for tomorrow, the practice or the game or the contest or the concert, because taking every day for what we can do with it is the only thing that has gotten us where we are. If you asked a band alum or anyone in the program now what their favorite parts of band were, I can almost promise none of them would mention a ranking or direct you to a trophy case. If you asked me, I would tell you about the time the horn line practiced longer than our parents would have preferred us to in the parking lot mid-downpour of a freak rainstorm. I would tell you about how cold it was, how I wasn’t quite sure how I would get my shoes dried in time for the next day’s practice, and how we played through a ballad that was so beautiful none of us will ever forget the way the world around us vibrated when we played it later in the Lucas Oil Stadium at Grand Nationals. I’d tell you about the bus laughter, the football game traditions, the pep rally dancing, and the choir of Keller Band Moms screaming for all of their kids at the Alamodome during State Finals.

Abby Tow
Abby Mulan practices show music with her playoff group.

I’ll forget much of this. I won’t remember twenty years from now the temperature it was on the first day of August camp regardless of how apparent it was at the time. I’ll cease to recall how exhausted I was before a 2 a.m. call time for a contest. However, I couldn’t forget the scent of band bun hair gel if I tried. (That will stick with me better than it ever stuck to my hair.) My mother will remove the yard sign with my name on it someday and my face along with all of my peers will be a face in a sea of band photos hanging in an office. Of course, this is entirely sentimental and to call a band hall holy ground is a stretch, but every year a senior tells me these memories will be the best ones I ever make. And so it shall be: I’ll show up to practice every day, I’ll complain about the early call times but will always be there, and I’ll keep loving every second of it somewhere in my heart. There are things I am willing to sacrifice to provide the soundtrack to my class’s high school experience. I play the fight song on Friday nights and I’ll never know the words to the alma mater because I’ll be too busy playing it. I wouldn’t trade anything for it; none of us would.