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Glorious Feeling

Tomorrow is the Buckeye Classic Invitational, a competition for high school bands in Ohio Stadium.  The collegiate host will then lovingly school its guests with a finale of a ramp entrance and a halftime program.  It's a different crowd from the usual Saturday afternoon masses, there for the band itself instead of the football team it introduces and intercedes for, much more intimately familiar with the inherent difficulty of complex marching drills, and (one would hope) predominetly sober.

According to Jason the Ridiculously Awesome Drum Major, even the tenor of the cheering is different, a pubescent, high-pitched keen rather than the tumbling roar of men and women together seeking Big Ten blood.  Those on the field become awash with appreciation more commonly seen for a boy band than a marching band, and rightfully so; those in the stands are clutching trumpets and baritones they hope to wield on along those yardlines themselves one day.  On this night, the nineteen-year-old with the flung-up flugelhorn is not a conduit of collegiate affection and institutional might, but an chair-stepping idol.

Some of them will get there.  Most of them won't.  Most of them won't not necessarily due to lack of talent or even desire, but because they cannot withstand what is demanded of this Band.  The Ohio State University Marching Band seeks not merely ability to blow pure, clear fortissimo.  It requires not what is displayed under the stadium lights, but honed while shut up in windowless rehearsal rooms and in the pouring Ohio rain.

There was a day in September when two-a-day rehearsals had technically ended, but the outer-edge effects of them were still evident in the smudged eye circles and aching deep muscle tissues.  Two days earlier the football team posted a win, but one which was gained on the last play of the game... against the University of Toledo. The increasingly sprawled, discombobulated handwriting of this football season was already on the wall.

It wasn't a dress rehearsal and it wasn't a gathering squall of emotion against a particularly vaunted opponent.  The Band had already performed and marched that day at Convocation.  Showers which were spitting all morning at last dumped over into a driving late summer gullywasher.  They carried their instruments from the indoor rehearsal room to the outdoor practice field. The Band calls this "Monday."

Water poured off the horns and over their shoulders and arms.  They kept marching.

The drops rolled from their faces and over the instrument valves.  They kept playing.

Some of them didn't have jackets or ponchos, and soaking tee shirts and shorts became clammy hindrances instead of protection from the elements.  Nobody said anything about it.

The drill charts draped over the bells of their instruments disintegrated, drop by drop, back into wood pulp.  They hit their marks anyway.

The drumsticks and cymbal handles and the horn valves were slippery.  The only thing hitting the ground was the driving rain.

The forecast on Saturday is for sixty-one degrees and sunny skies.  The Band will be in uniform, glistening instruments in full throttle, delivering a twenty-minute tour de force lecture without saying a word.  Their audience will be appreciative.  They will leave inspired.  The ringing of the last brass note will likely carry them through the next PSAT practice test or two.

They would have learned much more had the seen what I saw that Monday afternoon in the rain.



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