Countdown to 10-Year: Colorguard & Band

In nine days, I will be attending my 10 Year Class Reunion. In these days, I will take the opportunity to look back on ten of my favorite elements of high school (in no particular order of importance)…

#9 – Colorguard & Band

Setting up for band photo -- 1998
Setting up for band photo -- 1998

I still clearly remember going to pep rallies in elementary school and staring at the girls with the flags with great big hearts in my eyes. I was going to be a flag girl some day. I had to be. This was an important endeavor in my life. It was the be-all, end-all.

To be a member of the Flag Corp (or Colorguard as we came to refer to it later), you had to be a member of band. So when the decision came in fifth grade to be in band or not, the answer was a no-brainer. Yes! Yes! Yes!

I ended up playing flute in band. Throw out your best “American Pie” joke here, if you must, but, I played flute and low and behold I was dang good at it! My freshman year of high school, I quickly advanced into the top few chairs of the flute section. In fact at the end of the year, I sat second chair below a graduating senior. I was poised to become section leader, but my dream remained to be a flag.

Finally eligible to try out, I still remember the day that flag pole first landed in my hands. It was quickly discovered I had a natural talent for it! Nonetheless, I practiced and practiced. Few things had ever been this important to me.

It was quickly assumed I was a shoo-in, and I was on cloud nine. I was so close I could taste it. I was practically already being measured for my new uniform.

Friends hanging out in the band hall -- 1996
Friends hanging out in the band hall -- 1996

Tryout day came. I was in one of the last groups to go in to try out. I was a total basket-case. Fundamentals were simple and I nailed those. Then we had to perform a routine.

I still remember the routine was to, “What’s Going On” by 4 Non Blondes. The music started. No one has ever crashed and burned as spectacularly as I did. The routine I could do in my sleep became this huge impossible task to my arms. My timing was off. My mind could not get the next part right. There was no saving myself. I walked out defeated.

I obviously didn’t make the squad that year.

I was, in a word, heartbroken. In my mind, my whole life hinged on becoming a flag. I had talked to my mom at length about how important it was to happen for me. I really could not comprehend NOT being a flag… and yet here I was a sophomore and not a flag.

My talents playing flute quickly threw me into playing piccolo. A whole new level of torture and complement all wrapped into one shrill, tiny instrument. I wasn’t a flag, and life went on nonetheless. I found successes elsewhere, but my heart still longed to accomplish that dream. Another year passed and try outs came back around.

Once again, my natural talent for performing, flag in hand, came out. This year, though, it wasn’t so life-and-death to become a flag. I went into it with a clearer head and a whole new level of confidence. I went in knowing I knew how to do this. I went in knowing I was good. I went in knowing the world would not end if for some reason I once again failed.

Performing with the Colorguard -- 1998
Performing with the Colorguard -- 1998

The day of try-outs I went home sick from school. (I later went to the doctor to learn I had a nasty case of the flu.) I came back to school that afternoon to try out nonetheless. I had a 100 degree temperature, and I still remember laying down in the hallway outside the gym in total misery. I was so sick, and yet I went into the gym, tried out with all my heart, and I made the squad ranked third in line from the top.

I was ecstatic, but also a lot more respectful of what it meant than I would have been had I gotten my dream the first time around. I took it a lot more seriously.

The next two years, I performed during football season as a member of the Colorguard, and I spent the second semester still playing my flute.

My senior year, our half-time show was “A Chorus Line” and the Colorguard did the high kicks. I still remember the night we did the full show at half time. I still remember it all coming together so perfectly. I still remember the standing ovation we received from the stands upon doing our high kicks. I still remember that rush. Its one of those feelings a person never forgets.

Band and Colorguard took up probably a solid half of my high school career. You can call me a band nerd, I don’t care. The experiences I had in that organization molded me into who I am more than most things ever did in my life.

Playing flute after a parade -- 1999
Playing flute after a parade -- 1999

My failure to make flags my freshman year taught me the taste of defeat and to not put so much emphasis on some that arbitrary. But my determination to try again the next year showed me how to never give up on a dream.

My time spent as captain my senior year taught me elements of leadership that can be ugly but also rewarding. It taught me to stand up for myself and for the people who were depending on me. It taught me elements of being an adult that to this day I rely upon.

Playing music in band definitely taught me a lot about music and all its dynamics. I definitely have leaned upon those fundamentals since marrying a musician and music literally becoming my life. And the friendships I nurtured through my days in band are some of the friendships I still have today. The memories and laughter, the victories and the not-as-great-as-we-hopeds, the pride and disappointment. These are all memories and lessons that I cherish deeply.

2 thoughts on “Countdown to 10-Year: Colorguard & Band”

  1. I was also a flag in high school (’96-’00). Some of my fondest high school memories (and lessons learned) came from marching band and color guard, too. 9 years after graduating, I’m in my 7th season of teaching the very same guard that was such a great experience for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Great post!

  2. Thank you!

    Wow! Had I gone into teaching, I’d have happily offered to be sponsor for the colorguard. We never had an actual sponsor or dedicated teacher (band directors, sure, but in the same vein… not really) — we were pretty much left on our own to figure it out for ourselves — and I really wish we’d had someone in that leadership roll. I applaud the work you do! I am sure it is a ton of fun and satisfying!

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