This Sunday, the Marietta Daily Journal will feature a special section on our county’s outstanding student-athletes. It is a well-deserved tribute to your classmates who have achieved a 3.5-plus GPA and who have participated in two sports their senior year. No question that is quite an achievement.
But let us show our marching bands a little love, too. After all, you are among the more than 1,4000 marching band students and more than 12,000 regular band students in grades six to 12 in Cobb County Schools. You, too, deserve special recognition for your own achievements — much of it unsung, except in this space.
While I am talking to the seniors, I invite underclassmen to listen in as well. Your time will come next year or in the ones that follow. The only difference is the seniors have been at it longer and have reached a significant milestone. They can soon call themselves high school graduates. That is quite an accomplishment.
I am always obliged to point out that I don’t know a tuba from tube of toothpaste. The only musical instrument for which I can claim any expertise is the ukulele and even there I am limited to “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Immodestly, I think I do an outstanding job, but I don’t seem to get a lot of positive feedback from those who have heard me perform. Go figure.
But even while strumming the uke, there is no way I would be able to walk three steps forward, two sideways and one back at double-time without the possibility of serious injury to a fellow band member, myself or, heaven forbid, my ukulele.
Unlike the football team, the basketball team or most other team sports, there are no individual standouts in the marching band. Everyone is the star. About the only way you can attract attention is if you head left while everybody else has gone to the right. I don’t think that is the kind of individual standout for which you wish to be known. And that kind of thing just doesn’t happen because of all the hours of practice you put it under the watchful eye of your skilled band directors.
For you seniors, I suspect this is a reflective time for you, thinking back on when you first got interested in music and decided to become a part of your high school marching band. (I am guessing a decade or longer.) This is the culmination of years of dedication and sacrifice, not only for you but for your family as well. While you were slogging around on the practice field in the hot August summers, your family and friends were busy raising money with bake sales, car washes, raffles and the like so you could showcase your talents at parades, concerts and at halftime during football games.
Some of you will go on to college and perhaps participate in the marching band there. In some cases, the best team on the field in the fall at many universities is not the football team, but the band. Even at my beloved University of Georgia where the football team ranks among the tops in the nation, the 430-member Redcoat Band is just as outstanding.
Of course, not all of you will pursue a four-year degree. Some of you will choose to attend one of our state’s excellent technical colleges. Others of you may opt for the military or enter the workforce directly out of high school.
Whatever path you choose, you will always have your music. With all due respect to our athletes whose impressive skills will eventually fall victim to time and age, neither time nor age will impact your ability to continue to make beautiful music. Consider the New Horizons Concert Band here is Cobb County. It is comprised by musicians 50 years of age and older — some a lot older. Again, I am only a ukulele guy, but they sound pretty darned good to me.
I began writing about marching bands several years ago when I met a young high school senior about to enter UGA with plans to become a member of the Redcoat Band. When I congratulated him on his intentions, he said he wished I would tell the football team how special that was. They thought band members were nerds. I looked up the football team’s record. They were 0-4. I wrote a stinging rebuke, suggesting they learn how to block and tackle before they criticized the band. Obviously, I said, the band was a lot better than they were.
That column attracted a lot of attention from band members, parents, boosters and educators across the country. It also got a lot response from some very noteworthy figures right here in Cobb County who talked proudly of their days in the marching band, as I hope you will.
So, congratulations to you all, marching band seniors, and to those who have helped you to get to this special day. I applaud you for what you have done and I pray the music never ends.