For as long as I can remember, band has been a huge part of my life. I started playing the clarinet in fifth grade and grew to love everything about it. I loved the sound that it made. I loved being able to play and read music. I even loved to be able to say that I was in the band and that I played an instrument. As I grew older, I started to learn more and more instruments. Before I knew it, I could play seven different instruments. With the wide variety of instruments that I could play, I found myself able to participate in a wide variety of ensembles throughout my school years. I was in concert bands, wind ensembles, jazz ensembles, and marching bands. I loved each and every ensemble, but one has always stuck out to me and has truly changed my life: Marching band.

When I first started in the fifth grade, I was only able to be part of a concert band. Where I went to school, band started in fifth grade, but marching band didn't start until seventh grade. I couldn't wait for the day I was able to wear a marching band uniform and attend band camp. In my fifth grade mind, I felt like that day would never come. Finally, that day came and the thing that I had waited two years to be part of was finally here. At first, I was nervous. I had imagined everything about what marching band would be like. I was scared because I wanted marching band to live up to my imagination. I was so happy to discover that it was everything and more.

Now, after 12 years of band, I find myself entering my 10th and final band camp. It couldn't be more bittersweet. I had expected my marching band career to end with high school. I never imagined that I would find myself as a member of a college marching band, let alone the amazing Pride of West Virginia.

I remember the day of my audition so well. My mom woke me up at seven in the morning, telling me to get up for my audition. I thought she was crazy. I wasn't prepared, nor did I have an audition piece to take with me for my audition. My mom sent me to Fawley's Music store, and as I left, she told me that she knew I would be great and that I would be able to be part of the band I had only ever imagined.

I got to Fawley's and searched for half an hour until, finally, I settled on a book with music from "Phantom of the Opera". I choose "Angel of Music" because it was my favorite song from "Phantom." Its melodic tone was so different from the other assigned pieces that I knew it would be perfect to show versatility. As it came time for my audition, I waited in the hallway until an audition room was open. Lucky for me, I got the drum major that was also a theater major to audition me.

After my audition, I felt OK. Next came the hard part: Waiting. Weeks went on and I began to think that I didn't make it into the band... Until I finally received my letter. I was officially a member of the clarinet section in the Pride of West Virginia–the band that I watched and loved since I was a little girl. I couldn't believe it. It was like a dream come true.

The Pride became like a family to me and for the past three years, it has meant so much to me. It has given me opportunities to do so many once-in-a-lifetime things. We marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and at the Magic Kingdom in Disney. Now, as I get ready to enter my fourth and last year with the band, I look back at all of the things the band has taught me and experiences it's given me. Band has truly changed my life for the better.

If it wasn't for the love, support, and motivation from my mom, I would have never become part of this amazing band. I am so grateful for her. I cannot wait until she and my dad get to watch me at each game, doing the thing that I love with people that are special and talented and love the band just as much as I do. I look forward to this final season and even though I am sad that this chapter of my life is closing, I am so grateful for the memories.

For one last season, I get to join the Pride of West Virginia the Mountaineer Marching Band as they bring on and support our West Virginia University Mountaineers.