What High School Marching Band Taught Me

Marching band. In high school, sometimes I saw it as a divider between the different things I loved. Field trips for competitions would compete with cross country meets, school work was always done in the dim glow from an iPhone light while riding on the bus late Saturday night.

At football games, you would watch as parents and students jumped out of their seats while we were performing our show at halftime so they could wait in line for pizza. In all honesty, there were some days when the marching band felt like it was a burden.

Looking back on it while I went to a competition over the weekend to see some friends still in high school, I realized that whether I wanted to admit it or not, the truth was there: Marching band taught me some of the most important lessons I've carried on with me.

To begin, the marching band taught me about time management. I learned early on that I needed to step it up if I wanted to remain an honors student and still participate in band.

This meant bringing my backpack with me to the competitions, doing homework on the bus until I was practically car sick, and having to spend all Sunday morning catching up on the things I couldn't finish during our Saturday competitions, which included finishing this work before rehearsal Sunday evening.

Now in college, this time management has helped me immensely. I know that those few precious hours I have between my classes are best spent at the library. I know that participating in extracurriculars in college is tough, and that similar to the band, I need to find time to get my work done and my studying finished before I participate.

Shockingly enough, marching band also taught me about teamwork. During my time in high school, I participated in cross country during the same season as the marching band. Although the cross country was my favorite activity ever during high school, it didn't have as much teamwork that marching band did.

I was in the front ensemble (or pit) for my band, and sometimes that required us to be independent. During lunch, while the band was outside practicing or during a long summer rehearsal, it was our job to learn the music, correct our mistakes, and learn to cooperate with each other and play better for everything to work together as a whole.

This also required each member of the marching band to learn how to communicate efficiently. Texts were expected to be sent out if running late to a rehearsal, and notes were to be written and handed in with a valid excuse of why you were missing rehearsal. It was not tolerated if you missed rehearsal to grab a coffee or eat at Panera Bread.

It was especially not tolerated if you did not have an excuse at all. You also had to communicate with other members of the band. Things never seemed to get accomplished when yelling at your section, and it always seemed that the sections of the band who were comfortable with each other and offered constructive criticism seemed to do the best.

However, if you still did not have your music memorized three weeks into the season, you're constructive criticism was going to involve yelling. No doubt about it.

Adversity is a noun that means difficulties or misfortune. Throughout life, we seem to always deal with some form of adversity, and the marching band was no exception. There were times when our score was not where we expected it to be, or something went terribly wrong in the show.

There were tapes of judges criticism that made you frustrated, and sometimes comments from the band director made you feel frustrated, confused, and even angry. But what could you do? You essentially picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and continued to practice getting better, keeping in mind what the ultimate goal is.

Throughout our band season, our goal was to be at a "Box Four" standard, which is labeled as "high level & consistent". The Box Four standard isn't just a marching band term you hear repeated constantly the day of a competition. Instead, it is a term that should be repeated constantly in life.

Every task you complete in life or the way you act towards others should be done at a high level and consistently. You're always going to have to deal with criticism, and marching band taught me how to deal with it and move on, becoming a better player not only for my own benefit but for the sake of the band. Becoming a better person not only gives you benefits, but it also allows the people around you to rise up to the new standards.

I could go on for quite some time about stories from marching band, lessons I've learned, and mistakes I've made. There are not enough blog posts in the world to describe how much I learned from marching band, whether I agreed with these things or not during the times they occurred.

However, one of the biggest lessons I learned you cannot find in a book, or through the director's comments, or through the judge's tapes and the score they gave you. This lesson is camaraderie. Camaraderie is mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

No matter how much you try to get away, you spend tons of time with the people in the marching band. During the first half of football games, we all huddled near each other trying to stay warm. During Saturday competition's, we loaded the instrument truck together and passed around snacks on the bus.

Sunday nights were filled with dozens of "I'm too tired for this" or even the hopeful question of "It's raining. Will we be let out early?" was asked as we progressed through each week (we weren't let out early, we went to the gym to practice instead). In marching band, I met people that I would not have thought of becoming friends with, and learn things about music, others, and myself that I wouldn't have imagined.

I believe that there is a certain level of dedication and passion needed to participate in marching band, and without achieving those levels myself, I'm not quite sure what I would be doing today.

So, thanks, marching band. The high level and consistent lessons I was taught rubbed off, and I can finally say that I'm glad that they did.

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