By: Kara S.

It’s 6 in the morning when the alarm clock goes off. As much as I would rather sleep in on a Saturday morning at the end of October, today is the day of our last marching band competition. Today is the last day I get to spend with the entire band. These are the people who have always there for me, the people who understand me the most, and the people who are most like me. The band is my family.
Call time is 6:45 AM, so I have to be in the band room before then; in the band world, early is on time, on time is late, and late is unthinkable. So everyone gets to the school looking like zombies, dragging their feet while holding large cups of coffee and gathering their instruments and uniforms. I pull my trumpet out of my top locker and walk over to where the trumpet section stands. I stand in my spot at the end of the arc. I’m the Trumpet Section leader, so I have to check my section to make sure they have all parts of their uniforms and trumpets.
Come 7:15 and its time to load the buses. Today’s competition is in Rome, Georgia, which is about an hour away. By the time the bus ride starts, everyone is much more awake. The bus ride is full of eating food, making jokes, laughing, and watching videos on our phones. The Trumpet Section has become so close since June.
At our June practices, and then during band camp in July, we all knew each other, but not well enough. Now in October, after a campfire and cookout, countless human knots, and 23 bus rides, these crazy people are my best friends and know me better than my own family.
We arrive in Rome at about 8:15 and get off the bus at 8:30. Since we don’t perform for another few hours, we go to the stands to watch a few other bands and eat concession food. The bands we watched were amazing, and they had wonderful themes to go with their impeccable marching skills. These bands were going to be hard to beat, but our band has been putting in a lot of work and we think our show looks fantastic.
Since it’s the end of October, it’s pretty chilly, but our uniforms are a huge paradox. In the heat, they make you sweat even more than normal, but in the cold, they provide no warmth whatsoever. Everywhere I look within our band, I see letterman jackets adorned with band letters earned over the years and school’s band sweatshirts. Everyone is trying to stay warm.
At 1:00, we head back to the bus to get ready for our turn to perform. After getting our jackets, shakos or hats, gloves, gauntlets, and instruments, we get into our two lines. Now is the time to get serious. This is the last competition, the last time anyone will see this show live, with this band, because this band will never exist again. The seniors this year will have graduated and gone to college before the school band marches again. And next year, we will have new freshmen to show the correct way to march and stand at attention. But in Rome on this day, this is no time to think about that; right now is the time to think about our sets, music, breathing, and marching skills. And warm up time is over before we know it.
Its 1:30: we march over to the field and it’s time to perform. We line up on the back sideline, in line with our first set. My set one is 14 steps in front of the back sideline and 2.5 steps outside the 45 on side B. We’ve stood in this first step so many times. I just can’t believe this will be the last time we ever stand on this dot, and the last time we will ever run through this show. We’ve worked on this show for the past six months. We’ve had so many practices this year. We have practiced every Tuesday, every Wednesday, every Thursday, and some Saturdays. 65 band classes, 39 after-school practices, 11 football games, 5 all-day Saturday practices, 3 afternoon practices over the summer, 2 other competitions, and 1 week of daily 14 hour band camp have gone into the making of this show. The sets have been drilled into our brains, and the music for this seven-minute show has been memorized since September. But this show isn’t about us as individuals; these next seven minutes are about the band, the group. We don’t want to let each other down because this band means so much to us.
Now, it’s 2:25, and we have a show to perform.
“Drum Majors, is the band ready? You may now take the field in competition.”
Here we go.
Every set, every step size, every visual, every note, and every rhythm is perfect.
And then, it is over.
That moment after the last horns are down, but before the applause: that’s what we live for. That feeling of breathlessness, the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of pure joy is why we continue to stay in marching band.
After we get off the field and put our uniform pieces back on the bus, we walk back to the stadium at 2:45 to finish watching the rest of the bands who still have to perform.
            Before we know it, it’s 8:30 and time for the awards ceremony. All leadership, including me as Trumpet Section leader, are on the field lined up with the leadership from the other bands who came to perform at this competition. Now come the final minutes of agony. We wait for the scores, and since the announcer starts with the smaller bands and we are in the second biggest class, 4A, we have a while to stand and wait. The other bands did very well, and their scores reflect their hard work. Finally, the time has come for them to announce our band’s scores. “Color Guard: Superior.”
“Percussion: Superior.”
A few more cheers.
“Drum Majors: Superior.”
More cheering.
“Band: Superior.”
A lot more cheers.
“General effect: Superior.”
Even more cheers.
And finally, “Overall: Superior.”
 All I hear is a roar of cheering from our section of the bleachers.
“First place. Grand Champions. Congratulations.”
I can barely hear my thought over the deafening cheering from our band as I smile to myself. We did it. This was our best run ever, and we have the scores to prove it.
It close to 11 at night by the time we get back to the buses and are ready to go home. The bus ride home is as exciting as the bus ride there. It may be late, but we are still energetic. While half of the bus is singing, talking, and laughing, the other half is somehow sleeping through all the noise. I’m so tired, but I could never sleep, at least not with all of the excitement and all of my friends. I’m so proud of the entire band, and especially my Trumpet Section. This year, we had 14 trumpets, and 8 of them were rookies, which I was fairly nervous about having for my first year as section leader. But we can’t really call them “rookies” anymore; they’ve come so far and they have improved so much that the audience would never be able to guess that they had never marched before. I remember when my six freshman walked into the first band practice. They looked terrified and now, they joke around with the rest of the section just like they are seniors. Everyone has come a long way this year, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
We get back to the school a little after Midnight. By the time we arrive, tiredness has finally set in for everyone, and everyone walks into the band room like they did in the morning, looking like zombies. Instruments are returned to lockers and uniforms are put back on the hanger racks, ready to go for next year. We are dismissed around 12:30. Everyone is so ready to go home .
Marching band can make me both ridiculously happy and ridiculously frustrated, and sometimes I feel both emotions at the same time. If it weren’t for the adrenaline rush and the sense of pride I get from performing, I probably would’ve quit marching a while ago, but my band family and the thrill of marching are two things that keep me going through the countless practices and monotonous “one more time.” Marching band allows me to be a part of something greater than what I could ever do alone. It lets me find my physical limits and then how I can push those limits so that I can become even better. Our practice field is where I learned to take everything one step at a time and not to become frustrated enough to give up. I’ve learned how to work as part of the ultimate team. I know without trust, I would never have been able to back march at 160 beats per minute while holding a trumpet as the trombones front march towards my back. Marching band has taught me how to become a part of the music and how to keep my chin up and eyes filled with pride. In band, everyone is important. I know this is true because when one person is missing, the whole band suffers.
This band has been the best thing to ever happen to me. This band is my family.

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