I sat my pit down
for the pre-contest season talk. I was reminding them of the strides
they had taken since late July. I impressed upon them the need to
continue working hard and fixing this show even though it may seem that
this season is all but over.
Since I had a few people in the
ensemble who had not played before under my helm, I felt it was time
that I share The Smithian Philosophy on contest season.
(Note: In the
interest of decorum... I should warn you...pregnant women, children with
beepers, some over zealous band booster parents, and band directors with
misguided egos should read on with caution)
Then I, like the Gap Band, dropped
I said....right there for everyone to
hear....right there in front of little children....that *I*...Joe A
Smith hate marching band.
Yes, I know. I got the same reaction
from them that some of you are giving me right now. Many of them looked
at me like I just told them there was no such thing as Santa Claus and
Ralphy was never going to get that Red Ryder BB Gun.
How could I blaspheme in front of
these children, you ask? Well, itís easy. I told them the truth.
Much of their disbelief stemmed from
the fact that they knew that I had spent the better part of my last 12
years around the marching band/ drum corps activity. They knew that I
enjoyed teaching marching band. They knew that I enjoyed playing in the
So, here comes the inevitable
question. Are you ready?
One of my kids
picks his jaw off the floor, raises his hand, and asks "So,
do you hate marching band"
A few years ago, before I did the
drum corps thing, If someone would have asked me that same question I
would have looked at you with half-vacant eyes and said to you amazement
"Hate marching band?!? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKINí MIND!!!"
That was before I stopped and looked
Drum Corps didn't make me hate
marching band. What drum corps did was to open my eyes to the problem.
I'll call it: Exhibit "A";
AKA: "The marching band contest"
Now, I am not one of these people
that will run off screaming that the only reason that High School Xís
marching band beats everyone every year is because "They paid off
the judges," "The contest is rigged," "The judging
panel is from Mars sent here to make my life a living hell" or
something absurd like that.
The simple fact of the matter is that
High school Xís marching band won because they performed exceptionally
well. Not that High Schools A-W performed poorly, but on this night, in
this place, on this clipboard, a panel - whom you hired to give out
integers that roughly correspond to your bandís performance - gave
your band a number that was lower than the other guysí number.
Live by the score. Die by the score.
I do not fault the judging community.
After all, they are doing exactly what we have asked of them. They
listen to the show, talk into a tape recorder, tell you that they
"enjoyed the show, wish you luck, and hope to see you again later
in the season", then they assign a number to your marching band
This is where the fault comes in.
I have seen entire
legions of teenage kids crushed because the judges gave them too low of
a score...well, correction....
I have seen entire legions of teenage
kids crushed- not because they got too low of a score, but because
somewhere along the line a parent, a director, or a fellow band member
led them to believe that if they donít finish first, the whole season
was a wash.
Forget the fact that the band played
the show of their lives, a seasonís worth of blood sweat and tears
culminated in one magical night, and thousands of people were
entertained. All that is left for them is "The band came in second.
The season is lost"
Let me give you some advice that will
save you some tears down the road.
You are going to lose.
Iím not trying to doom you. But I
think that you should know that somewhere along the line...in some
night, in some place, on some tape recorder, on some clipboard, some
panel will give you a number that is lower than someone elseís number.
Numbers are just numbers. They are
useful. But in the end they fail us during October. We can give out
numbers until we are all blue in the face but...
There is only one way to truly win on
the marching band field
Great bands are not
great because they pay off the judges, or because the contest is rigged.
Great bands are great because they
have made the decision to be great....all the time. When they practice,
they practice with one goal in mind...to be the absolute best at what
they do, and to leave their best show on the field every time they
When you are constantly striving to
be the best, you will step on the field. You play your show. And you
Not because you scored higher, or
took first place, or took high drums, or high winds, or high silks.
You will have won if, and only if,
you perform to such a degree that when the bass drum taps you off the
field, the audience has no question in itís mind that you...without a
shadow of a doubt...belong in the company of greatness.
Now, I like scoring high.
I like kicking butt.
I like winning trophies.
But when you are 25, and it has been
12 years since you first picked up your drum, you will not remember what
any of those cheap plastic trophies look like.
What you will remember are the
You will remember being on the verge
of tears as you go home because that dayís practice was the toughest
thing you had ever experienced.
You will remember the way the grass
smelled as you were warming up for your last show.
You will remember how the wet
astroturf felt beneath your socks during retreat.
And you will remember looking around
the field and realizing that, on this night and in this place, you
unquestionably belong among the elite.