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Hear My Thoughts In Every Note

When this all began, so much snow piled in the parking lots surrounding Ohio Stadium that entire rows were blocked from use, and no matter how many layers of fleece and determination I placed between my skin and the elements, I was left trembling.

These days, watching the pre-tryout drilling and first rehearsals of the 2011 Ohio State University Marching Band, I've turned to baseball caps and stratums of sunblock. And yet I remain unprotected in a great many ways.  The changes are manifest in my face, on my upper arms and on slices of my legs where the August sun cuts across the metal bleachers. My eyes, too, are streaked with red.

The day I met the Drum Major, Jason Stuckert, he wore a heavy letter jacket and stretched his legs out beneath the table of a campus restaurant.  Now, baton on the field at his feet, he leans briefly forward at the waist, bent by the midwestern humidity and lack of sleep.  And then he dumps water over his head and readjusts the whistle which has slung from the front of his neck around to his back in the process of executing drill after drill, toss after toss-- and the baton is back in his hand, where it belongs, and he is off again at a run.

I write it all down now, every single thing, in little notebooks or the backs of receipts or in the margins of sheet music someone's tossed aside; there is terror in losing any second of this, for what I see is so jammed with exhaustion and strain my usual mental padlocks are fully shattered by the time warmups are finished.  I have sat on the edge of a field containing 225 people in full brass, march, and percussion blast, immobilized beneath profound loneliness and endless sweeps of homesickness for I have no idea where.

And then later the same day I watched a single drummer blast through a difficult passage, get it exactly right, then tap both sticks lightly against the rim in celebration, bouncing on his toes, exulting in this enormous victory of controlled and measured noise.  And I hear these notes ricochet across the rehearsal room, glancing off the music stands and the instrument cases and the enormous Script Ohio mural behind him and, yeah, me and the smears of my sunblock... and I have found accompaniment. 

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