Beginning college was a very interesting experience for me. I started my first semester in the summer of 2013 after I had graduated high school. From that summer until the upcoming fall I was a student at the local community college in my area. That was inarguably one of the worst times for me. In my family, we call it the "bad nightmare stage" because it just was not a fun time for any of us -- especially me.
Finally December 2013 rolled around and I was packing to leave for my first semester away to college. Two hours from home doesn't seem like a lot, but it was quite enough to live a little on my own for once. I was far enough from home so that my parents were not next door, but I was close enough for them to drive to me for whatever reasons.
Since then I have found myself slowly changing and have felt and seen the changes I never knew I was capable of and it all has to do with being that marching band kid in high school.
NOTE: This is not exactly a "join band, they said; it'll be fun, they said" letter to convince those on the fence of joining or not; however, if this does help sway your decision, then:
We’ve all experienced that lifestyle where a five minute drive meant leaving six minutes before you were scheduled to be somewhere. Believe me: been there, done that. The first day of band camp my freshman year, the incoming freshmen were told to be at the high school no later than 5:45pm. Upon arriving at the school, there was (and still is) a large poster above the door on the inside of the band room that says, “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unthinkable.” That has been my motto ever since when it comes to judging time.
Ever since that first day of band camp my freshman year, I have never shown up to something earlier than 45 minutes. It taught me punctuality and how to work with it, how to understand it, and how to live it. I am that one kid who is almost an hour early to every class, meeting, interview, work shift and, trust me, it looks good when you're early and not on time.
2. Communication Skills
I know firsthand on how to be that intimidated little middle school kid, I also am a pro at being a timid student. Being in band is a much bigger deal than some might think. The competition is fierce and the things people do to make it to the top become more and more intense over the years (no, get that American Pie quote out of your head, thanks). I was never the best horn player, although I thoroughly enjoyed playing with every fiber of my being. Unfortunately, there were people playing the same instrument that I did and that looked at as freaks of nature, which made it much more difficult for me to approach them even if it was to just say hello.
That fear quickly went away once I saw how intimidated everyone else was to other people within the music program, as well as the amount of time we all spent together. From four hour marching band rehearsals twice a week, Saturday practice days, to football games and an ample time together on the bus to and from the football stands. With time it became easier and easier to make friends with those people who scared the living sh*t out of me.
3. Learning How to be a Morning Person
Before you cringe too hard at this one, just think about the 8am classes you may have taken in the past and will take in the future. Now think about waking up every morning to drive to your 8am-5pm job everyday. I am personally so thankful for those 9am rehearsals on Saturday mornings before competitions. It meant setting my alarm for 6:30am and going to bed no later than 10pm, which is exactly what I do when I have an early class during the week. Once you have that routine down, you start to appreciate going to bed early because you actually have a chance at an eight-hour sleep and a well-balanced breakfast the next morning to get your day going. Consequently, those 8am classes are preparing me for those early mornings once I enter the real world.
4. Having Connections with People Near and Far
One of the coolest experiences from my years doing marching band was going to different competitions around the state and being able to immediately click with other people in other bands who play the same instrument as I do. Different sections of the band tend to have the same personalities no matter what group they are apart of and being able to meet another mellophone/horn section from a high school halfway across the state and act like we've been friends for years is a very special thing.
When I entered college I was shocked at at easy it was for me to become involved in anything I thought would be fun or would benefit me in the long run. I wasn't scared to receive a bid from my sorority, transitioning into the music program with new people and new directors was a piece of cake, I wasn't intimidated to join clubs or organizations, I even joined my school newspaper without blinking an eye. Marching band prepared me for the potential obstacle of becoming involved.
Going to Drum Corps International auditions where I was up against 40+ people playing the same instrument as I do who were sitting in first chair in the topmost student ensembles in the state was less intimidating than going into high school marching band was for me. Why? Because going into my high school program prepared me for that moment.
6. Coming Together With Different People to Accomplish One Goal
My high school band director would always say that he truly enjoys his career because he is able to see people from many different walks of life come together to accomplish one goal. By the time I was a senior in high school I was able to grasp onto that ideology and it made my experience that much better. When you welcome people into your organization despite where they are from, what they look like, the color of their skin, the diversity of that organization will bring out the remarkableness it has to offer; and when you can go from performing to goofing around during breaks on rehearsal days, it opens so many doors to infinite opportunities. It also opens your eyes to the truth behind stereotypes and helps you understand things you may not have known before.
Being able to do this, it has made my experience within my sorority much more fulfilling because I now understand the feeling you get when you raise the amount of money to reach your goal for your philanthropy or you donate an unexpected amount of supplies to your philanthropy.
7. Time & Money Management
First of all, every school band program is different with their fair share (* an amount of money to be paid by a certain date to the music program so that things such as transportation, show props, colorguard uniforms can be paid for). My fair share was not too bad considering the amount of people we had in marching band. For those students who had to find a way to pay to do concert and marching band in high school, it is not easy. It comes with a huge burden and it comes every year that you participate. Consequently, having to deal with the situation is great practice for managing a budget.
Other than money, every marching band kid will relate to the time management struggles. Like I mentioned before, I had two 4-hour rehearsals every week, a football game per week, and a competition almost every other week. Now, this may not seem like a huge time consuming activity by how simple I explained it, but trust me, it gets worse. A great handful of the students in marching band take 3+ AP classes. I guess reading music on a daily basis makes us smart? Who knew! Along with AP classes, the upperclassmen were involved in dual enrolment with the local community college during the week to start earning college credit, and we all had part-time jobs. My experience with college has been one very sleepless and caffeine injected roller coaster. If it was not for high school marching band and the amount of time management I was forced to figure out, I would not be able to be in a sorority (and still show up to everything that goes on), take six classes per semester which include 5+ hours in the library everyday due to double majors, be in a music ensemble, participate in basketball pep band, write weekly for my school newspaper, and find a way to have a social life and an 8-hour sleep every night. Thank you, marching band gods.
Oh yes, the much anticipation "L" word: Leadership. Colleges love it, grad schools love it even more. I regret with every part of my being that it took me until my last year to apply to be apart of marching band leadership. Not only was it one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever asked for, but it was also one of the best things I could have done. Being in leadership gives you a sense of responsibility that makes you want to share it with others. It makes you want to help others be the best they can be without pushing them down in order to do it. It is the opportunity to say, "Yes. I have a title and I am proud, but I am here to help you because I am already where I want to be." Plus, it looks spectacular on college resumés.
9. Representing Something Bigger Than Myself
If you were to ask me what marching band memory of mine sent the most shivers down my spine or made me smile like an idiot the most, I would tell you it was the moment that I stepped onto the competition field. Whether it was the smallest competition we did where we won Grand Champions two years in a row or FMBC State competition, that second of shock at how big the crowd is and how freakin' large the field is from eye-level is intoxicating. Wearing a uniform with true pride is only the beginning. The feeling of having an entire football stadium of people stand for you and applaud when you finish a show is beyond words that I could think of. When I meet people who did marching band in high school and they have never heard of my school, I still say the name with pride in my voice because it was an honor to represent the music program that I graduated from.
10. Finding Myself
Here's the cheesy part: Marching band helped me find myself. Going through high school was one of the most stressful times of my life with classes, boys, bullies, plus this and that. So when people ask me about band or marching band, I tell that them that without marching band, I would not be the person I am today. There's a tradition that my high school band holds: During the last competition of the year, the seniors on each of the buses give a small speech at the front of the bus with the driver's little microphone. I couldn't finish my speech because I wasn't able to contain myself when I realized it was all over for me. I was graduating and that meant no more high school marching band, no more late nights in the band room after football games trying to scramble everything up so we could go home hopefully by midnight. It also meant that I was moving on and so was everyone else. I was going to be an alumni and the music program would go on without me.
I am more than thankful for what marching band offered me because without it, I would not have been able to go into college as prepared as I was. Marching band helped me grow up. Marching band helped me be the best version of myself that I could possibly imagine and I truly hope that everybody is able to experience what I experienced.