On Fri­day nights this fall, don’t for­get the march­ing band

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - Dick Yar­brough

OK, the lazy days of sum­mer are gone and school is back in ses­sion. Even be­fore classes be­gan, many of our high school kids were al­ready busy prac­tic­ing in the sear­ing Ge­or­gia sun get­ting them­selves in shape, work­ing on their moves, prac­tic­ing their for­ma­tions, get­ting their uni­forms is­sued and ready for Fri­day Night Lights across the state. Foot­ball? Nope. March­ing bands.

Some will take is­sue with this, but I gen­er­ally know what I am talk­ing about when I opine on any and all sub­jects. Not march­ing bands. I can’t play a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment (un­less you count the ukulele, on which I do a mean ren­di­tion of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”) Add walk­ing five steps for­ward, two steps side­ways and three steps back while play­ing the theme from “Star Wars” on a trom­bone and I could wreak havoc worse than a hard-charg­ing line­backer.

My ad­mi­ra­tion for bands, for those who play in them, lead them and the par­ents that sup­port them is deep-rooted. It all goes back a num­ber of years ago when I met the grand­son of a good friend at church. He was in his high school march­ing band and headed to the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia.

When I asked him his plans while there, he said he was hop­ing to be­come a part of UGA’s Red­coat Band. I will ad­mit to a bit of bias, but the Red­coat Band is one of the best in the na­tion. What a great ex­pe­ri­ence for him to be able to per­form to with 400 other band mem­bers be­fore 90,000-plus fans at San­ford Sta­dium. He dropped his head and said, “I wish you would tell our foot­ball team that. They think we are a bunch of nerds.” Re­ally?

I went home and checked on the record of his school’s foot­ball team. They were 0-4 at the time. I wrote a col­umn and sug­gested the foot­ball team might want to spend more time learn­ing how to block and tackle and less time cast­ing as­per­sions on their band. It was ob­vi­ous that the band was a lot bet­ter than the foot­ball team.

It seems I had touched a nerve. The col­umn went vi­ral. I heard from band di­rec­tors, band par­ents and band mem­bers from across the coun­try. A few years later, I was mak­ing a speech at a high school in Ge­or­gia and found the col­umn framed and hang­ing in the band room.

I also heard from a lot of prom­i­nent peo­ple around the state who had played in their high school bands and trea­sured every minute of it.

The col­umn got me a num­ber of in­vi­ta­tions to watch bands prac­tice and this only in­creased my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the dif­fi­culty and com­plex­ity that go into march­ing band rou­tines and the long hours they put in.

My grand­son ran cross­coun­try in high school. He said he and the other run­ners would take off on a long train­ing run as the foot­ball team and the band were begin­ning prac­tice. They would re­turn as the foot­ball team was wind­ing up and head­ing for the show­ers. The band would still be prac­tic­ing. The play­ers and run­ners would shower, gather their be­long­ings and head for home. The band? Still prac­tic­ing.

Hap­pily, I heard from a num­ber of foot­ball coaches who ex­pressed grat­i­tude for the role their high school band plays in bring­ing ex­cite­ment and en­thu­si­asm to the games on Fri­day nights. One coach told of a mix-up that had pre­vented the school band from per­form­ing at half­time. After the game, he had his play­ers stay and watch as the band went through their rou­tine. A classy thing to do.

Back to the young man who was headed to the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia with the in­ten­tion of be­ing a part of the Red­coat Band. He did just that and the next time I saw him, I hardly rec­og­nized the shy young­ster I had met that day at church. The change in him was strik­ing. Brim­ming with con­fi­dence, he cred­ited his ex­pe­ri­ences in the band with help­ing him grow and de­velop as a per­son. He is now an at­tor­ney in the At­lanta area.

High school foot­ball right­fully gets a lot of at­ten­tion on these pages and it should. Play­ing foot­ball takes a lot of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion and is a great way to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether. But let’s not for­get the kids in the march­ing band. They work hard, too, and oft­times don’t get the credit they de­serve. May they con­tinue to make beau­ti­ful mu­sic, now and forever­more.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb

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