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Songs of Innocence

One of the members of S Row seemed... not himself late last week.  He is no bringer of The Drama, Neutron, and so as we walked together from the indoor rehearsal room to the practice field, I shifted the box of cookies I was carrying and placed a hand on his back.  Although he probably would have preferred closer contact with the cookies.

"I was reading about the Penn State allegations..." he said.  And... he'd been thinking, about what he does and what it means and what's really important about Saturday afternoons.

Well, yeah.  The disgusting details of the Penn State situation would nauseate a SEAL instructor.  And the fallout rains down upon trumpet players an entire state away:  Suddenly a band which serves a scandal-embroiled football team is preparing for a game against another, even more scandal-embroiled football team, to the point where its entire program is in serious jeopardy.  Ohio State may have lost a bowl game bid; Penn State has lost its very soul. 

That is the way of evil.  It pervades, it corrupts, it sickens everyone even remotely connected to its work.

A few days later I sat in the balcony of Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Columbus as schoolbus after schoolbus poured hundreds of children through the doors.  They were here for a concert by The Ohio State University Marching Band. 

Josh from D Row stood in the lobby discussing baton catching technique; his gaze kept straying over my shoulder and through the wide windows until he saw the name of his old school district on the side of a bus.  He rushed off to greet a middle school mentor.  Tiggles of S Row carried her flugelhorn off the stage and down the aisle to show off to one of her former teachers and his current students. The rookies danced to "Thriller" and JI Row instituted a screaming contest and trombonists wanted to know if anybody here was a Justin Bieber fan. 

And what I saw from that balcony were eight-year-olds vicariously conducting, shooting to their feet to dance at their seats, gasping with anticipation when they heard that selections from "Phantom of the Opera" were in the offering, and stretching out their hands for high fives from these organic chemistry major rock stars.  They didn't care about how they looked or who was watching. 

They did not hear that music.  They experienced it.

They were wide, dry lakebeds; the first music to reach their ears was probably a congolmeration of synthetic beats and Autotune, and these brass horns and shaking drums flooded them with human sounds produced by human hands. What I was watching--this jumping up and down, these arms flailing in the air, these shrill screeches-- was purity, purity that can't be bought or restored once lost. 

Oh, the parents and friends of the Band will cheer at tomorrow's concert, which will have much the same playlist-- they will chant "O-H-I-O" at the proper time to "Hang On Sloopy" and perhaps sway a little bit when it's time for "Rock Around The Clock."  But for the most part we're all far too cool for the Chicken Dance produced on four sousaphones-- we with our empty liquor bottles and our automatic billpay and our knowledge of How Things Work.

And that is a pity. 

And it's necessary.  But-- what a world this would be if there were no Penn State allegations to read about, and all that bandsman had to think on was notes on a staff and whether or not he was going to get a cookie. 

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