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Friday
Jul012011

In Which I Am Helpful, and Also Show Instead of Tell

It's important to me that I stay out of this band's way, from Jason all the way down to the littlest freshman with the saddest mellophone.  In fact I can't wait to be helpful in at least some capacity, and almost was, once, the day of the Spring Clinic, when Matt The Badass was de-organizing some boxes and papers and clipboards, and I, raised in the Catholic school system and fully trained to never make a suggestion lest it become a permanent job, said:  "Can I give you a hand with that?"  And he laughed at me, for he in his badassery is far larger than any clump of tangled paper clips.

There was another chance to help this week at Summer Sessions, which is the first glimmer of the band-to-be.  Early Summer Sessions are largely populated by rising freshmen and cut upperclassmen who traipse down to Ohio State three months ahead of tryouts to go about the business of Getting Better. At the moment, the only members of the band are Jason and Kyle The Assistant, and they largely spend their time refining D-Rowers, instructing high school and middle schoolers, and perfecting their cover stories for the moment when they are deployed to Pakistan to destabilize rouge terrorist-harboring governments.

For the most part, at Sessions, I am allowed to hover without a permit.  Or comment.  Which is the point; I want everyone to act as everyone would act as if I weren't there, watching them act.  But often I need to trail people in order to hear what's being said.  Passing down the art of drum majoring in the Ohio State tradition is a physical and a verbal one, and while for the first couple of Sessions it was fascinating in and of itself to watch Jason tap himself under the chin to demonstrate the proper posture for a toe touch salute or see Josh Halter The Supposedly Subdued hold a baton aloft at a specific angle to demonstrate the point at which a release should be made on a high toss, after a while I needed to hear the color commentary. 

That means hovering.  I hate the hovering; it makes me uncomfortable, it might well make the students uncomfortable, but it hopefully doesn't make the Drum Majors and D-Row uncomfortable, because here is a one-woman audience who would probably bang up a 15,000-word post about the current bills before Congress concerning clean water legislation if I overheard one of them say "I'm kind of thirsty."

Anyway, I was hovering, with Josh The Pilot on the sidelines alternately checking his email and playing with our camera and Tweeting ("I'M NOT TOTALLY CERTAIN BUT I'M PRETTY SURE WATCHING MY WIFE LITERALLY RUN AFTER 19 YEAR OLD GUYS WAS NOT MENTIONED WHEN I PROPOSED"), and Jason was busy being politely horrified by his potential successors' backbends when he said, "Mary Beth, do you happen to know what time it is?"

I did not.  I have not known what time it is since 2006 or so, when I stopped wearing a watch because my cell phone had become an extension of my very self.  And here I had a chance to Be Useful, and was missing it because my Security Blanket By Verizon was back on the bleachers in my purse.  "Sorry, I don't," I said, but faded down the field, high-fiving JD, missing, then making my way down the endzone to find my pilot husband, who, like all good pilots back to the Wrights who didn't know any better, is never without a watch. 

Back to the little cluster of strutters.  I re-high fived JD now that my mission was nearly complete, sailing across the tiny rubber pellets in my jean capris, SAVING THE ENTIRE SUMMER SESSION OF THE BEST DAMN BAND IN THE LAND  because if THE DRUM MAJOR didn't know WHAT TIME IT WAS, who KNEW what MIGHT HAPPEN.  TYPHOONS AND CAPS-LOCK PARAGRAPHS, PROBABLY. 

Jason and his minions were facing away from me now, preparing for another goalpost toss run ("Tap, tap tap... Count out loud.  I want to hear you count out loud") and-- here was my moment, only six months in-- I followed in quiet, professional, decorous fashion, and said, "It's eight o'clock, Jason."

And that is how I used my superpower of walking really ungracefully fast and knowing a person with a watch in the bleachers.  You see, it takes an entire state to bolster a band this good. I know that.  I make the sacrifice.   

Next post I'll discuss more in detail what goes on during the teaching portions of a Summer Session with D-Row, but for now, behold a twirling gauntlet, which is way less hilarious than it sounds.  Basically Jason makes everybody stand in a circle (this in and of itself took about ten minutes to arrange: "Everybody make a big circle.  No... no, don't all stand in a line.  A circle.  That means some of you need to go over there, and-- good.  Now somebody fill in the edges so that we have a circle.  Good!"  Fortunately for Jason, he does not express himself, as I would, via explosive swearing.)  And then Jason calls out different kinds of passes and tricks, and everybody has to do it until the world ends or he calls the next one, whichever comes first.

Down the field, the sousaphones and snares and trumpets are not making circles. 

In these dawning days of Summer Sessions, the band hopefuls focus on marching.  I attended three sessions, and only this past week did I hear any music-- a single scale, up and down the staff.  This band moves while using a strenuous chair step, one I could never ever master even while carrying nothing more than my own sense of angst, let alone blasting a difficult run of music I had just met maybe five days ago. 

As I describe Sessions in the coming weeks, I'll refer to these formations and rehearsals, so what we have here is some video evidence provided by Josh The Pilot (his reaction of what I've been immersed in since January: "Jason was unimpressed when he met me, and yes his twirling is that good; Greg told me I married a handful; everything else is a blur").

What we have here is a drill consisting of the scale and, basically, marching around in a box.  You will notice a few students stepping out of the formation, because they are facing the wrong way at the wrong time.  I call these people Team That Would Totally Be Me. 

It begins with three taps and ends with a "Halt kick DOWN!":

Try it in your cubicle, right now.  I'll wait.  Don't forget the HALT KICK DOWN.  Oh, and yell it.  They like you to yell it.

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