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This Music Monday post is about memories, good and bad.

Many of my band director friends have been teaching or assisting with band camps these last few weeks.  It makes me feel a little nostalgic, but only a little.  Band camp was hell on earth for me from my freshman year of high school on through the one season I participated in college marching band.  I’ve met some of my best friends through marching band-related activities, but I always had a hard time with the actual marching band part.

The music was easy–it’s supposed to be, so you can focus on playing while moving.  I never had a hard time memorizing my part, even though I’m awful at memorization.  Moving was much trickier.  I have bad eyesight, almost zero peripheral vision, and very poor depth perception, so it was always difficult to figure out where I was going and how big my steps needed to be for me to get there on time.  Inevitably I’d end up doing it wrong a dozen times, do it right once, and go back to doing it wrong.  I’m easily frustrated, so that was tough.  And I’d end up feeling like I’d let everybody standing near me in the formation down because if I was in the wrong spot I might be pushing them into the wrong spot too, just so the form would look right.  It always felt good to get it right, and if I hadn’t been involved in band, who knows what I might have been doing with my time.

Teaching band camp wasn’t any easier.  I was a section leader in high school, so I’d occasionally had to tell people what to do and make sure everybody had music, reeds, etc.  Returning as an instructor was an entirely different situation–I had to do minor instrument repairs, handle squabbles between students, address behavioral issues, and try to answer questions from my students without confusing them further.  The instrument repairs were easy; pulling overwhelmed freshmen off the field to calm them down and try to get them to stop crying when they just couldn’t handle older students yelling at them anymore was not.

Seeing my friends’ posts about doing all of this, with the added responsibility of actually being in charge of everything, makes me think back to all of those crazy weeks–the sun and rain, the heat and cold, the week everybody got sunburned the first day and had to do a full run-through for the parents on the last day in 50 degree weather while it rained sideways, the short tempers after running through the same chart ten times in a row, the drill adjustments to make up for people quitting during band camp, the early mornings and the evening exhaustion.  It feels like yesterday, but it was so long ago.  Those memories stick with you.

(If you’ve never been in a marching band, this is a pretty good summary of why band camp week was the bane of my existence.  It’s all true, especially the part where “one more time” actually means “we’re going to run this over and over again for the next hour, then we might move on to the next formation”.)

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