These days, watching bands from curb is plentyI didn’t get to see all of the schools perform last weekend at the Festival of Bands in Sioux Falls, but I saw several. Nancy and I were on the street for the morning parade and in the stands at Howard Wood Field for some of the field competition.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I didn’t get to see all of the schools perform last weekend at the Festival of Bands in Sioux Falls, but I saw several.
Nancy and I were on the street for the morning parade and in the stands at Howard Wood Field for some of the field competition. We traveled to the event to watch two granddaughters perform with the Chamberlain High School band. After festival officials finished handing out awards in the early classes of performances, the older of the granddaughters signaled to us that she was essentially starving to death right then and there, so we signed her and her younger sister out, grabbed their uniforms and other gear and headed across town to the Pancake House.
As we left the stadium, I heard the announcer telling Mitchell High School to take the field. I’d have gone back to watch that group, but we had a haul ahead of us, taking the girls to Chamberlain and then pounding the highway back to Pierre before the end of the evening.
I did get to see the Parkston High School band perform, and I have to say, they were an impressive bunch. I’ve seen them a time or two at other festivals in other years, and they tend to keep pretty high standards in their performances.
Chamberlain, of course, was the sentimental favorite that day. OK, maybe not for everyone in the stands, but for Nancy and me. They played well, and they marched well. More than that, this was a rare moment, because in 1962, I led the CHS marching band as drum major. This fall, Granddaughter Jordan is the drum major. It took several decades, but it seems we’re keeping the tradition in the family. Jordan is a whole lot cuter than I was when I led what they now call the Scarlet Pride (we didn’t have a cool name). She seems more comfortable out in front of the band than I did, too.
I never quite got used to the notion that I was wearing a white suit and a tall, fluffy white hat with a red feather sticking out the top and I was carrying a long, black, gold-braid-wrapped baton with a huge silver knob at the end. Thank heavens they did away with the baton. The uniform without that extra stick was bad enough. It pretty much looked like something you might have seen on the album cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper,” or a poorly crafted version of those outfits Michael Jackson sometimes wore. Perhaps I was way ahead of the times. That might have excited some 18-year-olds in 1962. Let’s just say I was a bit underwhelmed, and thinking of changing my name, maybe moving to the badlands of New Mexico.
Marching bands in field competition these days are all color and motion and sound. They have flag corps that break out different-colored flags for every song, sweeping and swirling around and through the musicians and almost never striking a trumpet player or clarinetist with a flagpole. Some of the color guards have wooden rifles they twirl like overeager ROTC cadets, only without dropping them.
While the color guard is flashing around, the musicians are moving one direction after another, forming long lines, breaking the lines into Vs and Xs and diamonds and boxes. Again, with all that movement, there’s seldom an instance in which a trombone crashes into a French horn.
Back when I led the band, we did shows in which we’d play a song like “My Merry Oldsmobile.” As we played, we’d wander back and forth across the football field trying to create a shape that could be said to resemble an automobile, if the viewer were a proud parent or doting grandparent or profoundly nearsighted spectator.
I had a hunch the shapes might have been identifiable, if someone had been sitting high enough above the band to look straight down on the field. Unfortunately, the bleachers in Chamberlain were nine or 10 rows high. I suspect we looked aimless and lost.
I wouldn’t give up the time I spent as drum major, but you’ll never get me to say I’d go back and do it again. Watching from the curb and the stands is plenty.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.