Marching band. That’s right, that’s my corner of the world. There’s a quote my brother said about marching band that’s always stuck with me: “Being in a band in high school is one of the coolest things; being in THE band in high school, not so much.” And that’s how I felt in the beginning of my marching career, too.
When I first auditioned, I was positive I’d get snare drum. That, or the tenor drums. So you can’t imagine my excitement when I found out I got bass drum. Mainly because there wasn’t any. I remember going up to the conductor, Mr. Eddleman, at the end of the first day of rehearsal and telling him he wouldn’t be seeing me again.
However, my mom convinced me to continue band camp with the encouraging words of: “You’re going.” And, truly, I’m glad she did.
As the years went on, I began taking more and more pride in the band. I made tenor drums my sophomore year and never looked back. I remember being under the light of my room, practicing my music over and over again until it was perfect. I’d laugh at my mistakes, I’d want to jump and throw my sticks at the wall, I’d freak out and think I could never actually get the pattern. But I’d remember the last time I felt like that, and how I got through it before and, dammit, I could get through it again. And it all seemed worth it when I got to perform on the field.
It was always the moments before a performance I loved best. Always so funny. Looking around me, seeing all my friends in band uniforms still making the same dick jokes they always made or seeing them smoke weed just minutes before suiting up. We were supposed to be the pride of our city.
I really do think everyone should have to wear a marching band uniform with a group of people at one point. It’s like being naked – except instead of being bare, you’re wearing too many clothes. It makes sense, trust me. It’s like that because there’s no way to look cool in a marching uniform. So all your superficiality is taken away, everyone’s personalities are exposed. It’s wonderful, especially after feeling so bogged down by what people think of you. I’d go on record saying that the best jokes are made when one’s wearing a shako: “I wish our team name was the Lions so then we could truly be the Pride of Avon Lake.”
I was always smiling while wearing the tenor drums. I loved Friday nights for so many reasons and I craved that feeling before a performance.
This sort of addictive feeling was why I pushed myself to audition for and make a WGI group, Notre Dame Indoor Percussion Ensemble (World Guard International). Basically, I played tenor drums for an indoor drumline made up of some of the best drummers in northeast Ohio and we competed against other groups from around the world. This was all during my junior year.
WGI was brutal. We sacrificed six months of weekends to train, push ourselves, and get better. Not much blood or tears, but there was certainly enough sweat to aid a country in a drought.
Pregame was different with them. Not as much talking. Mostly just meditating. It was just as addictive: Looking around this dedicated group of drummers that you admire and look up to, and then for a split second you realize they might be looking at you the same way.
But I couldn’t dwell on that thought for long, there was a tenor solo I had to think about because I kept fucking it up and I swore the others probably wanted to kill me.
This was during my junior year.
Also during my junior year, I found myself really hating me. I spent a lot of the time in the bathroom at school or Notre Dame crying. Wanting to die. But when I had rehearsal, it was an escape. A safe house from my mind. All because of the drummers and band members who built this sanctity with me.
In high school band, no one cared what you looked like or what you wore. Your superficial appearance meant nothing. You could go to practice and feel completely unjudged and that was the beauty of the whole thing: You could wear that shirt you thought might be a little too tight, or say that joke you worry other people might not get. As long as you were trying to make people laugh or smile, that’s all that mattered. If anyone gave you a problem, then they weren’t a true band geek, simple as that. A true one is someone who loves music and takes pride in the people they’ve built this lovely refuge with.
WGI built the same lovely place, but it gave a far greater feeling of accomplishment than security. When I got off the gym floor after performances, I felt like a rock star. Like I was the greatest drummer ever who just performed and competed with the other greatest drummers. Everything felt possible. Sure, there were plenty of dick jokes at Notre Dame too, but they were more for helping everyone cope with their tired bodies and sleepy eyes. A joke was an attempt at rejuvenation. A smile electrified your whole body, it put another rep in you. It pushed you to great lengths and made you better. Not just at marching drums, but at life.
High school marching band was my adolescent bed, where I could curl up and feel safe, happy, and secure. WGI was my lovable drill sergeant who kicked my ass, but made me laugh along the way. Both pushed me to get through my junior year tears and suicidal thoughts.
If it wasn’t for marching band and tenor drums, I would’ve been dead at 16. And that’s why I will always cherish every memory I have from those activities. That’s why I will always think of it as being my corner of the world.