Friday, April 13, 2012

First cut

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I had the recurring nightmare that I would be cut from the marching band.  I hadn't marched a show on the field my entire first season, and I wasn't sure which would be worse - knowing I wouldn't be performing all season, or failing the Challenges for every show.

I practiced playing, and tried to work on marching, but I didn't know anybody in South Bend who could help me.  I felt like I was on my own.  Brian was encouraging.  Dear Brother #1 was... not.


I don't want to belabor the details.  Suffice it to say, that summer was one of my worst summers ever.  Too many things went wrong, too isolated from my friends...

It was a relief to go back to band camp in the fall, to move back into my dorm room on campus.  As a returning member, I showed up on Tuesday morning for instrument auditions, to pick up music, and a briefing.  Then we marched to the field to show the newcomers how the band worked.  Much like the previous year, I came early to practices, but mostly focused on playing.  This time, I could hang out with Brian between practices, have meals together.

The Purdue Bands have a strong tradition of student leadership.  In the ranks, there is a Section Leader for each instrument.  Most instruments have more than one rank of musicians, more than 10 people, so there is a Rank Leader for each additional rank.

Outside of the ranks, students are responsible for the music Library (maintaining, filing, and distributing music), for Clothing (sizing up students, organizing uniforms, distributing them to students, and replacing lost articles), for Supply (instrument check-out), and for Operations, or Ops (hauling equipment everywhere, blocking streets for the parade, loading the buses for travel)

On Friday, the Section Leader pulled me aside to talk for a bit.  Everyone knew Brian and I were together, that we were engaged.    They were keeping Brian, as an Alternate... but I was cut.

The Section Leader had arranged with Doc to let me try out a new role with the band.  I could be part of the Ops team.  No challenges, no marching.  I still got to sit with the band for all the home games, traveled with the band for away games.  I worked hard, loading and unloading the truck for rehearsals, at games.  Blocking traffic, making sure there was plenty of water at practice, running errands.

When the band made away trips, Ops would load and unload the buses.  That fall, we traveled to Ohio State.  A bus broke down on the journey, so we had to pack 9 busloads full of equipment and students into the 8 remaining buses.

Ops was sort of fun, but the whole situation was awkward.  I'm glad I had the experience, but I wouldn't take that role again.