Break out the slide oil; I?m joining the band

As a teenager, my Saturday nights were spent with turf under my feet and bright lights shining overhead. Usually there was also an abundance of spit running down my chin ? that?s the hazard of playing a brass instrument. Yes, I was a band nerd and covering last week?s band invitational was a wonderful trip down memory lane. Because as Mt. Pleasant High School freshman Charles Bryant put it, ?band invitationals are basically an ice cream social for band geeks.? Well Mt. Pleasant, thanks for inviting me back to the party. And just in time, I might add.

I played trombone for eight years. When I first began, I was the only girl who played. By the time I graduated in 2007, there was at least one female trombonist in every grade. This had absolutely nothing to do with me, but it was nice to see the section growing and bending the gender norms.

I loved my section. We were one of the smallest sections, but we were usually the ones getting into the most trouble. Despite our trouble-maker reputation, it never failed that on the first day of band camp our director, Mr. Dooley, would point to us and encourage the other sections to take a page from our sheet music and bond the way we did.

Now, our bonding was not done through trust falls or heartfelt conversations, it was more of hazing, to be honest. There was ?pass it down Thursdays,? which I dubbed ?abusive Thursdays.? I won?t name why, but I always went home with more bruises than I started the day with. We also took pleasure in mocking the flag girls and their pre-performance huddles by getting in a circle and making the most annoying, and at times vulgar chants. Again, we were a group of mostly boys. And then there were the nicknames.

The last day of band camp we would take 45 minutes or so, a time sections were to be working on memorizing their parade music, to come up with the most ridiculous nicknames for the new recruits. For four years, I was only referred to as ?Buff? during band activities.

Band was grueling at times. When I was in high school, we had a block schedule ? four 90 minute classes a day. However, since band was such a big deal at Clark County, we had band every day. During marching season, practice began around 7 a.m., and lasted until second period, at around 10. We would build and perfect the field show, going through four measures at a time, over and over and over again until the transition was perfect. The last 45 minutes was spent marching, making sure our heel-toe steps were in line and precise.

It was tedious at times and like most teenagers, we grumbled the entire time. But as we marched onto the field and watched our drum major salute the judges, indicating the band was ready, we knew all the early mornings, late nights and miles marching were worth it.

For many of us, being in band gave us an opportunity to see beyond the boarders of the tri-state area. My freshman year we marched in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif. My junior year we went to the Indy 500. Over the past 25 years, Clark County has performed in the New York St. Patrick?s Day Parade, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Gator Bowl and the Kamehameha Day Floral Parade in Honolulu, Hawaii, just to name a few.

Band taught me about more than reading music and how to march without moving the upper portion of my body. Being a Marching Indian taught me about hard work, perseverance, diligence and teamwork. And also how you can make anything fun.

I was proud when I was interviewing Mt. Pleasant students and heard all of these sentiments echoed. It truly is a testament to Mr. DePriest and Mr. Creager, as well as my director, Mr. Dooley.

And if you?re not doing anything on Saturday, Oct. 8, venture down to my home turf at Kahoka, Mo., for Clark County?s 25th Annual Parade of Champions. Not only will Mt. Pleasant dazzle once again under the glow of the stadium lights, but you may even catch a glimpse of your (hopefully) favorite newspaper editor picking up her instrument for the first time in a decade to play with the alumni band.