Marching Bands and Parades

Who does not like a parade?  If you had asked me a couple days ago I’d say a lot of people.  In fact I was of the opinion that parades had gone out of style.  They just don’t seem like something that people are really into anymore.  I mean we have Twitter and text messages, movies and TV and a thousand other things that seem much more interesting that waiting on the side of the road to see endless numbers of floats, marching bands and who-knows-why dignitaries from who-knows-where.  Mark me as surprised on Saturday when I went to photograph the local Daffodil Festival parades and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people along the parade routes to watch them.  I’m sure that, as an outsider, I don’t fully appreciate how big of a deal the Daffodil Festival is in this area.  Still, there were a lot of people out there at 10 a.m. on a Saturday to watch a parade.  The second parade was even more well attended – I had trouble finding a place to stand where I could take decent photos of the event. I don’t know why so many people like parades – they’re not my cup of tea and maybe that’s the point.  My own bias against parades prevents me from truly understanding why people enjoy them so very much.

The thing I noticed most during the parade was the marching bands.  Those who know me will not find that surprising.  In high school I was intensely invested in marching band.  I loved marching band – and we had a very good one, which is perhaps why I liked it so much. We were good and by and large our band took great pride in looking and being the best we could be.  The thing about the bands on Saturday that I noticed was how crappy most of them looked.  Sure there were a few that had obviously practiced and knew what they were doing, but there were so many of them that just looked sloppy.  I know that band uniforms are expensive and maybe unduly so, but is it so hard to have your band dress the same.  How hard is it to get the whole band to wear a particular color polo shirt and black slacks, shoes AND socks. We had this one kid in my high school band – Kenny – who somehow never figured out that he needed to wear black socks (and not the white ones he would always bring) with our black pants and shoes.  Nonetheless, just this one thing – dressing the same – would have improved the look of the bands by a factor of ten. The other thing was just how bad they actually played their music.  I have never been a master musician – like most things in my life my musical ability excels in the realm of theory – but I always did my best to sound good or at least not bad. Do these bands not practice at all? At this point it would be pretty easy to get into a discussion about arts funding at schools – which is at far lower levels in most school districts than it should be – but that’s not the point of this particular post. This is more about self-respect. Whenever I know that I’m presenting myself in public, be it an announcement at church, a full on sermon or addressing my co-workers about some tech thing in the office – I always try to make sure I look and sound my best.  Partially this is because I don’t want to make a complete butt of myself, but its also about presenting things in a way that they are appreciated and welcomed.  I just got the feeling on Saturday that a lot of these kids didn’t care about what anybody thought of themselves or their bands.  It was sad for me.  But, like I said there were a few bands that had it together and that brought me great joy.

The other thing I noticed – and this is completely shallow – is that a lot of these kids looked like dorks – for lack of a better word.  I know there is the stereotype of the band geek, and heaven knows I was one of them.  It seemed like well over 50% of the kids in several of these bands were the anti-social, live in my parents basement playing D&D types.  It just seemed strange to me because when I was in band I felt like there was a good percentage of our band that was part of the social fabric of our school.  Several of us had received varsity letters in sports.  We had the valedictorian in the band and I believe we even had some student council members.  Sure there were a few people in the band who were ‘socially awkward’, but by and large we were a pretty well adjusted group. Maybe there is something different up here in Washington that we didn’t have in Maine.  I don’t know, it just seemed odd to me. And perhaps my high school band that I keep comparing everything to was the odd one and these bands were the normal ones.  Who knows.  I do know that the most important thing to come out of my day at the parades was the warmth of cherished memories of high school and some great friends from band.

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