Dick Yarbrough: Self-appointed 'band editor' is ... ready to march
by Dick Yarbrough
August 20, 2011 12:00 AM | 7009 views | 10 10 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
Despite my best efforts over the years to create a level playing field (pardon the pun), it seems that marching bands continue to get the short end of the stick when compared to the attention given athletes. Nothing against athletics, you understand, but being in the band looks like very hard work to me.

I read about all the kids from Cobb who are playing major college football. Cobb happens to turn out some great football talent year-after-year. I am up-to-date also on the current status of local high school football and which teams have the best chance for success in 2011. What I don't see is much about the marching bands. How are bands fairing in the August heat? Any secret routines? Any promising newcomers?

I'm not even sure how many kids from Cobb have signed to play with major college marching bands this year. I know of only one. Joseph Goldstein, son of Marietta councilmember Philip Goldstein, has enrolled at the University of Georgia and will be a member of the famed Redcoat marching band.

Georgia may or may not win all their football games this season (I hope they do; particularly, the state championship. Otherwise, it makes for a long year) but the University of Georgia Redcoat marching band will end the year once again undefeated, untied and unmatched. That is a fact.

I am sure there are other kids from Cobb performing with the Redcoat band and other bands around the country, but I don't know who they are. I do know they have worked just as hard as their athletic compatriots, but with much less fanfare.

As I have observed in this space previously, you don't tend to get your picture in the paper for having walked a pattern more intricate than a wide receiver in a third-and-long situation while playing a instrument flawlessly and following a complicated musical score, knowing half the crowd has gone to get a hotdog and fret over the need to get the tight end in the seam to cut down the quickness of the Tampa Two defense. That doesn't seem right. Probably most of the crowd couldn't walk and chew a hot dog at the same time.

When the fans do get their fannies back in the seats, they may not notice the enthusiasm generated by the band as the players do their thing on the field. Can you imagine a team scoring a go-ahead touchdown with not a peep from the band? That would suck the spirit out of the game like Mr. Oreck's vacuum cleaner. Bands provide that spirit.

When this subject came up last year, I heard some wonderful stories from band parents about the cooperation between band directors and football coaches in Cobb. In one case, the band did not get to perform its routine at halftime so after the game was over so the coach had the players stay on the field and watch the band play. I hope that school wins all their games, 100-0. I also heard about one coach that got his lanyard in a tangle because the band wanted to practice on his sacred football field and he banished them to the hotter-than-hell asphalt parking lot. I hope he loses all his games, 100-0.

But, back to the level playing field thing. Since there is a staff of writers covering the athletic activities in Cobb, I think it is important that somebody look out for the marching bands, too. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that this day I have appointed myself band editor of the newspaper even though I don't know a flute from a flower pot. (That clicking sound you hear is the Maloxx bottle being passed around the editorial offices. Maybe I should have talked to the editors about this first.)

This won't be a fulltime assignment because humor-impaired politicians would assume I wasn't going to write about them anymore and they would behave badly. Politicians are like little children. If they think you aren't watching, they can get into serious mischief.

If your child is being courted by a number of bands in the SEC to play the French horn or if you see scouts in the stand with stopwatches observing the snare drummer and hoping no one sees them lest word gets out to other band scouts, let me know. On the other hand, if I find out that a band is working out its routines on the field and is making the football team practice on the asphalt parking lot, I must report that, too. Band editors have a tough job.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 24, 2011
All the football parents need to realize that for the band, the game is secondary; Friday night is just a dress rehearsal for the Saturday contest.
September 02, 2011
This is all great stuff. I ran across your editorial and the cOmments from your readers when looking for softball stats on MDJ Online. I am proud of my kids for being great students, athletes, and band members. Straddling then fence I can firmly state that the dedication and committment of being in the band rivals if not exceeds the sports.

Here is my new point - even more so for the parents. Band success requires a ton of parental involvement. Like many organizations the efforts tend to be shouldered by few to the benefit of all.

Here is to the volunteers that make the band programs succeed!

Play on.

August 24, 2011
Mr. Yarbrough-

Thanks for your kind words about marching band. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. The folks who make fun of this activity have no clue about what is involved from a physical and cognitive aspect.

The discipline and structure provided by involvement in marching band has helped our child tremendously. This played a large role into a high GPA and other valuable life skills and a very generous scholarship offer from Jacksonville State University. We look forward to our child performing as a Marching Southerner this coming season.
barney fife
August 23, 2011
As a former Cobb County high school and UGA Redcoat player, I want to thank you for your kind words about marching band. It was spot on, and I’m sure appreciated by many. Today’s marching band drills typically have dozens of drill sets, and each musician must hit over 100 (sometimes over 200) spots in a show, which ranges anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes.

Marching band does exist without football, particularly at the DCI (Drum Corps International) and some BOA (Bands of America) levels. The caliber of musicianship & athleticism in many is astounding. There are broken bones, stitches, torn ACLs, and all sorts of injuries incurred…..it is so much harder than you would think on your body. They practice as much, and in many cases, more than athletes.

I know people who aren’t familiar with band are laughing at all this. But if they came and watched a practice, they would understand how difficult it truly is. Memorizing all the music and then adding not just the marching, hitting spots, and choreography on top of all that is something that is quite difficult.

Marching band is expensive- the instruments, uniforms, drill and music writers, arrangers, additional instructors, and travel expenses don’t come cheap. It is rare that a high school has a budget for this. It is paid for by the parents. Sometimes they can work to earn money or sell things as fundraisers. But marching band generally costs out of pocket between $1,000 and $3,000 per year. The benefits are tremendous- time management, teamwork, physical and musical conditioning, lifelong friendships, and an incredible sense of accomplishment.

One last thing- on marching in parking lots: Many do not know that marching on a parking while setting the drill is almost a requirement. This allows the marchers to mark their spots for each drill set on the pavement with chalk. When the drill sets are learned and memorized, then it is time to take the routine to the football field. At some schools, the band is fortunate enough to get field time; others are not so lucky. The purpose of laying artificial turf on all the high school football fields in Cobb is supposed to address this. Hopefully, the football coach has enough character to permit the band their time on the turf. If not, shame on them.

August 20, 2011
I would like to address a couple of points I have seen mentioned here.

Actually marching bands would and do exist without football. It is a phenomenon all to itself. The school band that has won the Bands of America super regional competition in the Georgia Dome the last two years doesn't even have a football team at their school. So...while providing spirit for the team is one of the most important functions of the marching band, it is not the only one. They are every bit as competitive as any sports team. Our marching band will go to four Saturday marching competitions this season alone.

I am also proud and excited to say that our marching band is practicing on the new turf that was installed this summer!

Thank you, Mr. Yarbrough, for pointing out how hard these kids work and how much spirit they bring to the entire school.
August 20, 2011
Yes, bands are playing on the new fields, at least they are at our particular high school. I think Mr. Y was talking about games in the past before the fields were put in.

One great argument for the new turf is that the band doesn't destroy it for the sports teams and the sports teams don't destroy it for the band.

The fields are definitely a win-win and a God-send. As a band parent who is grateful for the CCSD for making these fields possible and who now watches her band student march confidently without the fear of turning an ankle while marching in the mud, I say a big THANK YOU!

Samuel Adams
August 20, 2011
The Cobb School district told us during discussions about the astro turf that ALL kids in the schools would be using the turf, including band kids. This was part of their argument for funding the turf with SPLOST dollars -- otherwise the turf would've been left to the booster clubs as in the past.

So, are we to now understand, band parents, that your kids are NOT allowed on the new turf that we so generously provided to the system? And if not, I would like an explanation from the school district as to why the coaches do not allow the band to practice on their fields?
proud band mom
August 20, 2011
Thank you for this article! Band kids do not get the respect that the football kids do. My child spends countless hours on the hot pavement practicing their routine over and over to be perfect to not be able to step foot on the football field until the first game. I thought tax dollars built the football field and the band kids should be able to use it as well. You are so right as a football game would not be a football if the band was not there to get the fans excited! Thanks again for the article....I am 1 proud band mom and looking forward to friday night football
Love Them
August 20, 2011
In the grand scheme of things HS band members receive scholarships, because of their music ability, not their marching ability. Atheletics, like football draw more spectators than HS music. So by the sheer numbers, a newspaper will cover the BIG drawing atheletics. HS football is covered on TV, but not HS soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, lacrosse, volleyball, wrestling, etc.

Then Mr. Yarborough I could be like some people and say if not for HS football, a MARCHING band would not exist. I, however, love the marching band performance at half time and believe they deserve recognition. So do ALL the other sport participants.
August 20, 2011
Thank you. I wish "football parents" would give the respect to the band they demand for the team. These kids spend hours upon hours perfecting those routines on top of band classes, private lessons, weekend competitions, camps, college camps for leadership, etc. Every band parent & student puts just as much time, effort and money into their childs passion as a "sports" parent.
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