This post is in honor of the postponed Grammy Awards.
When I was in high school, I played the clarinet in the high school marching band.
I was really bad at playing the clarinet because I very rarely practiced on my own initiative. One time, our band director, Mr. B., listened to me play and then all that he said was, “I am losing patience.”
I was really bad at marching because I am uncoordinated.
However, I showed up for every band practice. (Well, except for that one time when I decided to go to Pizza Hut in Somerset with my mom instead.) My rural school district was three buildings connected by a tunnel. My high school graduating class had less than 100 students. The band needed every warm body willing to show up.
Just for the record, my K. sister was much more dedicated to the marching band than I was. She started off in the fourth grade playing the clarinet. However, in high school, K. switched to the trumpet because our band desperately needed members for its brass section. Our school’s music department lent her a trumpet rent-free for several years. Mr. B. gave her special lessons so that she could learn the trumpet from scratch. K. actually practiced the trumpet at home a great deal. She was one of the band members who played “Taps” at a local cemetery every Memorial Day.
Since I was in the marching band, I attended every single home and away football game in which my high school participated for 4 years. So, that was 40 football games.
So, at one of these 40 football games, a bunch of us got bored or something. My sister and my best friend weren’t around. I sat with a bunch of kids that I had known since elementary school but with whom I didn’t have a close relationship. We decided to make fun of the cheerleaders. We made fun of the cheerleaders loudly. We had a pretty loud discussion about how terrible the cheerleaders were at being cheerleaders.
Well, here’s the thing:
One of the cheerleaders had a father who sat on the school board.
And this father who sat on the school board happened to sit pretty close to the band that night. He sat close enough that he could hear us.
It doesn’t help at all that I, personally, have a pretty loud voice. Pre-Covid, my husband Jonathan used to have to tell me to use my inside voice in restaurants. Back in high school, I didn’t have my own personal Jonathan to remind me to use my inside voice. I also didn’t have my own personal Jonathan to remind me not to talk trash about Somebody when that Somebody’s influential father was sitting next to me.
So, from what I understand, this father of a cheerleader who was also a school board member asked our high school administration why the Berlin Brothersvalley Mighty Marching Mountaineers looked and sounded so terrible.
The next week, the entire band and the band director, Mr. B., had to meet with our principal and explain to him why the school board now complained about how we looked and sounded.
We had to come up with an action plan for how to better represent our community. We had to have extra practices in order to improve our marching.
I think that the administration or the school board also told Mr. B. that we had to participate in a band competition in the next season. They might have even told Mr. B. that we had to win a trophy in at least one competition.
So, when we showed up for band camp that next summer, we had to prepare for football games, parades, and also for a band tournament.
Now, this band tournament was held about an hour or two north of our high school. Mr. B. scheduled extra practice sessions for this tournament.
When we arrived at the tournament, we learned that all of the bands were grouped into classes based on either the total population of our high schools or else the sizes of our bands. Either way, our band qualified for the class designated for the smallest schools. We learned that there was only one other high school band that would compete with us in our class. The competition awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies to each class.
So, regardless of our final score at the end of this competition, we would take home at least a 2nd place trophy for our class.
We took home the 2nd place trophy.
Our only real “competitor” – the school that took home the 1st place trophy for our class – had a marching band so small that we joked that they could all fit on one of those miniature school buses. Looking back, I think that this school’s entire marching band was about the same size as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
I don’t know if Mr. B. entered us into this particular competition knowing that we had an excellent chance of bringing home a trophy. Maybe this was just a lucky break.
The morning announcements in school that next Monday included our “second place trophy at a band tournament.”
For every performance for the rest of my career in high school marching band, we marched in to the introduction of the “Award-Winning Mighty Marching Mountaineers.”
For the rest of my high school career, every time that I applied for something – be it a scholarship, college, etc – I mentioned my involvement in an award-winning marching band.
I don’t know if this “achievement” actually helped me to get accepted to college or to win any of the scholarships that I won. But, it sure as heck didn’t hurt me.
So, the pissed off school board member actually did me a favor when he decided to teach us a lesson.
I was supposed to learn not to talk about other people in public. However, I learned instead that many “professional achievements” are actually the result of dumb luck.