Something’s Missing!

Warning – Band Alumni Rant To Follow!

It is no secret to anyone who follows my blog that I am a Band Nerd through and through! I have many wonderful memories of playing in band when I was in school. Many memories surround the high school Homecomings.

Homecoming was always on a Saturday. We’d start the day in the morning by marching in the parade. There would be an hour or so break between the end of the parade and the actual homecoming game. After the game, we’d all go home to shower and get ready for the dance that would take place that evening. It was an all day event.

Sam had mentioned earlier in the week that the homecoming parade for our local high school was tonight. We talked about taking the kids to watch it. The route is a short distance from our house, so we all dressed and loaded up the stroller and walked to get a good spot.

From where we stood, we could look down the street to see where the parade would be starting from. At 5pm on the dot, I could see the drum major leading the band out onto the main drag. Local police and fire trucks were usually at the head of our homecoming parades, but this one had the band front and center.

As the band approached, I awaited the “roll off” which would ultimately prompt the band to play the school song. The school song was always a song played on parade routes for us. There was usually one or two other songs we’d rotate through as we marched. If we were marching in a holiday parade, we might have a Christmas song in there.

The band kept coming closer and there was still no music. I figured they were waiting for a spot full of spectators before playing. Our drum majors often did this. If there was a stretch with just a few people, we marched without playing. However, if there was a big line of people along the route, you could rest assured we were playing.

Then I noticed why there was no music – the band members didn’t even have their instruments! The only ones who did were the drummers. I was floored (and disappointed) by this. It was a beautiful day – sunny and about 65 degrees at parade time – why were they not playing? I couldn’t even fathom this.

The band walked by and were all chanting or yelling something. It was probably “Go Mustangs” or “Hurray for Clio” or something like that. Why wouldn’t you want to belt out the school fight song along the route? I don’t get it. You are at the front of the parade – it’s your time to shine. You have that golden opportunity to set the stage for everything else that follows, and you just walk on by. Heck, they may as well have been throwing candy into the crowd like everyone else did in my opinion. They were no different than the boy scouts sitting on a flatbed …

When I think of a band in a parade, I think of brass players right out in front with their notes piercing through the air and letting everyone along the parade route know they are coming! They are belting out the school fight song that alumni along the road can sing along with and little kids can clap along with. Maybe it’s just a great march from John Phillip Sousa to fire up the crowd before they all file into the stands to watch the grid iron competition. The band is such an important part of a parade.

When they plan the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they choose 10-12 high school or university bands from across the country to perform. That, in itself, tells you of the importance of the presence of a marching band in a parade. Last year in the Detroit Thanksgiving parade, there were 5 bands that performed. Even in the Mickey Mouse photo above, the characters are playing musical instruments. To me, this says that a band is vital to a good parade.

I remember vividly that our band director, Tom Shaner, would take us out at least once during homecoming week to march around the neighborhood in preparation for the parade. It was always neat to see people standing on their front porches to watch us go by. The kids who were too young to be in school would watch us and jump around and dance to the school song. Marching bands and music make people smile!

By definition, Homecoming is a long-standing American tradition where colleges and high schools would welcome alumni back to campus and the community. So when I graduated, we got some of the old band gang back together to march in the homecoming parade. Mr. Shaner was more than happy to have us back. A highlight of getting ready for the parade was meeting together a few weeks before hand to rehearse music. With all of us sitting around in the band room, it was like old times.

That first year we gathered up quite a group with good instrumentation and we marched. We used to joke that we’d need oxygen at the end of the parade! For many, we hadn’t picked up our horns in months or years! We always counted on the newly graduated to sort of carry the older folks.

A buddy’s brother designed our logo to put it on sweatshirts so we could all sort of be in uniform. What a blast we’d have getting together every year. Once Mr. Shaner retired, the interest to get together started to fade. I sure do miss playing my trumpet in those parades.

I’m not 100% sure why the local band didn’t play in the parade. Perhaps there is a specific reason. I don’t know. As a former band student, I was disappointed – not only for me, but for my kids (and all the kids on the parade route). I wanted them to hear the sounds of the band! I’m also disappointed for the band members. What is there to remember about your homecoming parade if you weren’t playing a special piece of music? Even if all you played was the school fight song 5-10 times along the route – play something! What kind of memory is just walking along? What is a marching band without music? I guess it’s just a bunch of people walking ….

7 thoughts on “Something’s Missing!

  1. I agree, but it wasn’t due to lack of interest from alumni that we didn’t reunite anymore. It was lack of interest from the high school band and it’s new director after ours retired that sent us packing, or so I was told.

    Liked by 1 person

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