Joe Raber Jessica Jacobs English 106 November 2, 2011 Simply Surreal April 3, 2007.

Hesitantly, my brother and I walked into the high school gym for what was to be our first marching band practice. It was 6:00 p.m., a peculiarly odd time for an extracurricular activity practice my brother and I thought. Before entering the band room we were greeted by a short, rotund, bearded man with a surprisingly high voice. He seemed to speak Klingon at us. Mildly disturbed and somewhat frightened, we hurriedly entered the band room and sat down, apparently we were late. Thus, we had started our marching band career After the initial meeting we were distributed among our “Section Leaders”. Each Section Leader was in charge of a group of instruments (A Tuba Section Leader was in charge of the tubas and the High Brass Section Leader was in charge of the high brass). I walked over to the Tuba Section Leader. His name was Josh Mieher and I just so happened to be dating his younger sister, the only thing was, he didn’t know that. He happily introduced me to the other two tuba players, Justin Short and Erin Hayes. Justin was one of those kids that were heavily drawn to anime. I was never into that stuff so, quite frankly, I found him very unusual. Erin greeted me with a hug. I was a happy kid. Shy, but happy. After getting to know each other we moved onto music ensemble. In music ensemble, all band members are assembled into a half circle grouped by their instrumental sections. We did mostly breathing exercises in the first few practices and apparently I could not handle them. I awoke looking up to my fellow tubas eyeballing me with concerned looks. It became evident that I had passed out, cold. I was extremely embarrassed.

My first practice and I had already embarrassed myself in front of all these high school band kids. It was an awful feeling. I gathered myself and continued the practice. After I had recovered, the assistant band director said something that I recall him saying almost every day of my life. Mr. Johnson said to me “Raber, I’m proud of you. You got back up and kept going after you were knocked down. That kind of ability will get you anywhere you want to be.” With the conclusion of our very first marching band practice I felt a sense of skepticism. Marching band was much harder than I had anticipated. Standing at attention for periods of greater than ten minutes was physically tolling, especially for a tuba player; specifically a tuba player that had little to no upper body strength. Nevertheless, I continued to attend practices throughout the months of April and May every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-9. During the first two months of marching band we worked mostly on the marching band show’s music. The last practice of May was not a normal practice. It began on Saturday around 8 a.m., and we practiced until 9 p.m., and upon conclusion of the practice we were to stay at the school overnight, and then practice in the morning. After Sunday’s practice the marching band puts on a “parent preview” and demonstrates what we had learned throughout the months of April and May. This whole entire two day practice is referred to; among us band nerds, as the Overnighter. Although this sounds like absolute hell, it really is a great deal of fun. After the conclusion of our Saturday portion of the overnighter, there are many activities to participate in until Midnight (which is lights out). This is where I went from being the shy kid that was afraid to say something stupid in front of a high school band member to the tall kid everyone wanted on their basketball team. After the overnight part of the Overnight, I began making friends outside of the “soon to be freshmen” circle.

At the conclusion of our parent preview on Sunday, we all said our goodbyes for the summer until band camp. Band camp begins four to five weeks before and consists of practice every day from 8-5. Really, it begins unofficially at 7:30 and usually ends after 6:00. So as a soon-to-be freshman, I was putting in almost 12 hour days every day for several weeks before school. Yes, band camp is as arduous as it sounds. To give an example of how taxing it is, nearly every single band member welcomed the beginning of school. It seemed like band camp was always during the hottest period of the summer. Before band camp all band kids were as pale and ghostly as a nerdy band kid can get, and at the end of band camp we all had been exposed to ridiculous amounts of sun and nearly everyone had a very dark tan. On a more serious note, band camp was the most challenging thing I had ever gotten myself into. There were two things that got me through it: What Mr. Johnson had said to me the very first day of practice and the new friendships that I continued to make. It was in band camp where I really learned the value of teamwork. During band camp we learned the actual movements in the show. We also combined those movements with the music we learned in April and May, and thus a marching band was truly formed. A marching band show is broken up, usually, into three parts: the opener, the ballad, and the closer. Each of those parts is comprised of drill. Drill is a specific formation or transition to a formation at a specific time in the show. There are about 90-120 pages of drill in a marching band show. Each page plots every single band member in relation to the yard lines on the football field. Needless to say, marching band utilizes a lot of memorization skills. With the conclusion of band camp, comes competition season. Competition season, for me as a freshman, was one of the most nerve racking experiences of my life. Competitions always took place on a Saturday but nearly always ended early Sunday morning. Usually, us

band kids would put in about18-24 hours a weekend during band. We would arrive at Norwell (the school I attended and marched for) usually before 6:00 a.m. and then practice until it was time to leave for our competition. Once at the competition we would get dressed (in our uniforms) and practice for a short amount of time before performing. Performing was the worst part of my freshman year, at least in the beginning of competition season. During a show, everyone looks exactly the same. So being able to march towards Stephanie the flute player (my landmark) didn’t work anymore. I found that out my very first competition. For a period of about 15 seconds towards the end of the ballad, I had no idea where I was, where I was supposed to be, and what I was supposed to be playing. It was absolutely horrifying as a brand new marcher to be the kid that screwed up. Then I saw it. A landmark one would say. I saw a short, rotund, bearded man marching with a baritone. It was Kevin, the baritone section leader, the man who had spoken Klingon at my brother and me, the man I needed to see at that point in time. I knew where I had to be. A move that would normally take 15 steps to get to only took me three. I had made it to my spot just in time for the big hold. I was extremely happy as well as traumatized at the same time; it was quite an odd feeling. This experience described the first three or four performances of the year. In all reality, though, the state performance was what we had all been preparing for. State was our last shot at performing our show entitled: Simply Surreal. The Norwell Marching Knights had practiced over 300 hours for one eight minute state performance. By this point in time, we had made it through district, regionals, and semi-state with only one performance left. Needless to say, I was nervous.

I can clearly remember stepping onto the RCA Dome’s AstroTurf field (now the Lucas Oil Stadium). Thousands of people were there watching us. The feeling was absolutely surreal. I looked up into the crowd and it felt as though a fleet of butterflies had taken flight in my stomach. I began to feel faint. Then I recalled what Mr. Johnson had said to me. Right then and there I decided to have the best performance of my life; and I did. I hit every note perfectly, I played every accent mark, decrescendo, staccato, with precision, and my form was amazing. As soon as we played that last note I felt tears streaming down my face. I had never been a part of something so satisfying and I felt an unreal sense of accomplishment. It was the greatest feeling I had ever felt. I can remember being on the fence about marching band. I can remember all the feelings associated with the very first day and how intimidating everything felt. I remember struggling to hold my tuba up on the seventh hour of band camp in weather that was above 90 degrees with 100% humidity. But what I will always cherish, what I will never forget, what I will try to explain to my kids one day, is that exhilarating feeling of accomplishment and pride that I experienced on the RCA Dome’s field on November 3, 2007.