Friday, March 2, 2012

Band camp, continued...

One of the evenings in band camp, possibly Tuesday, Roy Johnson (the Voice of the All-American Marching Band) spoke to the group.  He asked all the freshmen to stand up and look around the room.  After we had done so, he said that the chances were good we had just seen the person we would marry.  He also gave some good advice on time management, how to fit the 10-20 hours a week of rehearsals plus performances in with sleep, meals, studying, and classes.

Another evening, perhaps Wednesday, we started practice at the drill field and parade-marched back to Elliott Hall of Music.  Something like this, except it was evening:




You might be able to see, band parade marching is less like a formal march, and more like, well, dancing to the cadences.

Oh.  Wow.  Looking on Youtube.  When I started with the bands, Kurt Gartner was in charge of percussion.  I was there when he left, and Pam Nave came in.  Apparently she's taking this dancing thing seriously.  There's always been percussion features, but most of the dancing I remember was the auxiliaries.  This is something new to me!  WOW.


ANYWAY.  Sorry.  So, there was this guy in my section, who helped me through figuring out the parade cadence steps, the clarinet moves, and so on that our section did.  And while I had wanted to make it into the band before, for the chance to play and belong, now it was so much more.  Because that first time we marched back from the drill field to the Hall of Music... that was AMAZING.  So much fun.  And I fell in love.

Bands have to have balance, so one section of instruments doesn't overpower another.  College bands also insist on having full ranks for performances, no holes.  So each section also has a few extra people, called Alternates, who take over a spot when someone gets sick or injured.

My freshman year, apparently there were a LOT of qualified people.  (And, BTW, I had one advantage over Gertrude from "Mr. Holland's Opus."  I did know how not to squeak, it just took practice.)  They were able to have pretty full ranks.  I gather that was a first time they had four full ranks of clarinets in the block (40 + alternates).  So I got to be an alternate.

Ideally, there aren't all that many holes to fill.  So, alternates have other duties as well.  Like setting up ladders for the conductors, and holding them steady.  Nearly everything is performed in cut time, and the conductors need to wave their arms around, vigorously.  If the ground is uneven, the ladder can rock.  I'd like to think I was the best d*** ladder holder in the band, it was my job to make sure they didn't fall.

Sometimes, I'd help to set up the huge flags, hold the sideline steady:



I got to play, at practice, in the stands, at concerts.  I got to march in the parades.  Performing at Slayter center, with ~300-400 other bandmembers, I got over stage fright VERY FAST.  At least in group numbers.  There was a time when I thought a season of that had killed stage fear completely, but I've since learned  that performing solo is something I still need to work on.

There would be challenges after each performance, so I had hope that I could figure out marching and make it into the regular block.  And there was this guy.  Who knows?

That was my first year at band camp.