No Time For I'm Sorrys
Length: 1150 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As the leaves turn to brilliant colors of orange and yellow and begin their descent to the Earth, the area around the football stadium is filled with the resonate sound of horns and drums. Every afternoon and Saturday, the Goshen High School marching band gathers to fine tune its skills for upcoming games and competitions. To those of us outside of the band culture, the grueling labor and long hours seem excessive, but, to many of the band members, nothing exists that is of higher importance.
"It's a lot of dedication, which is hard, but I think everyone needs to have something that they're dedicated to, something they enjoy doing, and [marching band is] the thing I like doing," states Jordan Kauffman, probably the most dedicated member of the band. "For me, I just love music.…it's just something that I love. People who like doing math, do math. I like doing music." Jordan has participated in marching band all four years of his high school career. Starting in the beginning of his second year of high school, he began to take leadership positions in the band. As a sophomore, he applied for and was nominated as the section leader of his instrument, the saxophone. His junior year, the talented young man was elected by his peers to serve as an assistant drum major. In marching band, there is no more important role than that of a drum major. The drum majors act as student assistants to the directors, directing and often running many of the rehearsals. This year, however, Jordan sacrificed his drum major position to march on the field to fill a gap in the French horn section. Jordan's sacrifice for the group has placed him at the level of a demi-god in the eyes of the other band members.
Jordan is lanky and lean, with short black hair and a ready smile. Confidence and humility seem to radiate from him, immediately placing those around him at ease. He has a constant optimism that creates an aura of naiveté. His eyes twinkle with excitement every time he talks about music or marching. It's easy to see why the other band members appointed him in so many positions of leadership. His only complaint about band is the few members who don't take it seriously or who don't keep a positive attitude. Jordan works hard and expects others to do the same.
"You can tell when we haven't had a good week because we don't perform as well.…Sometimes they go really well, sometimes they go really bad. The first two [competitions] we had were terrible, but the one last weekend went really well. We have a ways to go, but…." Jordan's voice trails off before he starts speaking negatively, and then he flashes a huge smile.
Jordan sees competitions and marching as a very exciting thing; they create a sort of magic for him. "You actually get emotionally involved into [competitions].…It's where people really understand why we're doing this. People get frustrated very easily, practicing so much every day, every week, for four or five months. Competitions are where the hard work we done in practice really pays off….They're a lot of fun. I really enjoy them.…The whole atmosphere is so fun and just competing…" Jordan trails off again and his eyes twinkle remembering the fun they have.
"The reason I like marching band so much more than concert band and those sorts of things is just because I'm out there and I'm doing something. To me, it really is kind of art, just seeing all these forms move and mesh, with music to go with them and flags and stuff. It is a type of art, I guess." Jordan flashes those white teeth again, blushing slightly after making such a profound statement. "It's fun to be with a bunch of people. You become like family a lot of times. [The other band members] are the people you know best out of the entire school, the band people. It's usually where people have their best friends and even a lot of people date in band." The band definitely has a life separate than the lives of typical high school students. Because so much of their time is spent practicing, performing, and competing, they develop a real camaraderie among themselves.
I got a first-hand view of this dedication on the weekend of the Goshen Invitational, a competition held at Goshen High School during which invited bands from all the neighboring schools compete. The weather just couldn't make up its mind that day. One minute it was snowing, then hailing, then sleeting, and finally we'd find ourselves in the middle of a downpour of rain. The band arrived at the high school to begin practice that blustery morning at ten o'clock and practiced for the next three hours. After the band's break for lunch, I arrived to observe the afternoon practice. The students gathered in the band room, mingling in groups of twos and threes. After a few minutes of social time, the band trudged outside into the horrid weather.
I can only describe the precipitation at that moment as large, wet hail, which splattered on our heads and ricocheted off the brass instruments. Jordan, spotting me among the other students, came over and declared, "I'm wearing two hats, three shirts, and gloves. I'd better be getting warm!" Soon after, the majority of the band gathered together in one mass group hug to try to protect themselves from the blustery weather. Close to seventy five kids must have been squished into that pile, laughing and talking and seeking solace from the drenching hail.
Despite the weather, practice continued as planned: an hour and a half of constant repetition and marching. All around me, faces were flushed purplish-scarlet from the biting wind and fingers trembled from the nipping cold. The head drum major, a girl named Whitney, perched high atop a platform, directing the band. At one time, she was forced to wear sunglasses, even though it was almost darkness outside from all the clouds, to protect her eyes from the horizontal sleet. The assistant drum major, Renee, resorted to doing push ups in order to keep warm while the director was giving instructions. But the band pressed diligently onward, seeking that perfect performance.
After witnessing firsthand all the devotion that goes into a single band competition (GHS marching band performed amazingly that night, even though the sleet was still falling), I easily understood Jordan's enthusiasm. Something magical happens in that band that keeps the members hungry for more. This hunger drives the band onward through districts, sectionals, and regionals to plant them in a spot at the state competition year after year. Their dedication is summed up best by the director, Max Mault, who exclaimed during the practice, "We don't have time for I'm sorrys. This is competition."