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Student Blog: The Case For Marching Band

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How Becoming a Band Geek Changed My Life

Student Blog: The Case For Marching Band When discussions about defunding the arts in schools crop up, the image that immediately materializes is one of stages being stripped of their curtains; auditorium seats torn up and replaced by STEM labs; and drama teachers' contracts being ripped up. While I'm sure that some version of these events certainly happens nationwide-I will never deny America's passionate disrespect of the arts in schools-drama programs are only the tip of the defundable iceberg. In some schools (like my own alma mater) there is no drama program to begin with-only an overworked music department stretching to cover one show every spring to appease the school board. Programs are compounded and consolidated to reduce costs. The inherent value of the arts in the community-both in and out of school-is quickly forgotten when a round of budget cuts brings programs under scrutiny.

I'm preaching to the choir here; I know. If any single readership knows the daily struggle of keeping the arts funded in public schools, it's those who frequent the BroadwayWorld student blogs. But today, I'm not here to talk about spotlights and scrims and character shoes. No, rather, I sit here writing today about the middle child of the performing arts-marching band.

Marching band is what turned my life around-of that, I am certain. By the end of my sophomore year of high school, I had been dejectedly playing soccer for ten years. I was raised to see things through to their finish, and anytime I thought of leaving soccer, the word "quitter" nestled itself deeper in the back of my mind. I found it harder and harder to go to practice. Harder and harder to crack a smile. Harder and harder to find joy in anything, save for the solitary week where I would get to skip practice for school musical tech rehearsal. It finally became clear to me that some things weren't worth finishing; some things can never be improved with hard work. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to quit and never look back.

So I did.

I quit soccer and never once missed the lifting sessions or team camps or bus rides. I didn't miss the hot sun. I didn't miss the stink of my shin guards and cleats after a long practice in August.

I didn't give up on hard work, though. Instead, I threw myself headfirst into marching band and fell in love. I couldn't believe that this was what I had been missing out on for so long. For years, I had been dreading every single afternoon, counting down the hours until I could return home, when I could have been making art with my friends. I practiced more for marching band than I ever did for soccer. There was hot sun, yes, and long hours-I have the lingering second-degree sunburn on my back to prove it-but there was also laughter and the supreme satisfaction of pulling off a run of the show knowing that you had blown the crowd away.

I came to realize that this was the feeling I had been seeking all along-the heart-pumping adrenaline of taking the stage with enough time for the lights to come up and the self-assured hurry in which only thoroughly rehearsed performers execute another flawless show. It was the high I chased during that blessed week of tech rehearsal every year, duplicated tenfold. In band, there was more teamwork than I had ever experienced in sport: every single section had to play and march their individual parts flawlessly, perfectly in tandem, or else the music and image would fall apart. You could not let your teammates down. For the first time, I truly understood that.

As I look back on my high school experience, I'm aware of how fortunate I was-I still had a flourishing marching band program to join, headed by a young director with fresh ideas. I still had one school musical a year where I could spread my creative wings and lose myself in creating a story with others. This fortune makes me wonder, though. It makes me wonder what it's like for those who have already been at the short end of the defunding stick. In my programs, we felt the constant looming specter of defunding the arts-it's hard not to in rural America. But to live in a place where this has already happened-to not have a marching band to turn to when you can't imagine yourself possibly going to one more soccer practice-is not only a less beautiful position, it's a dangerous one. How many teens find their only solace in arts programs? And how many more lives would have been saved if they had band camp or tech week to turn to? Defunding the arts is not merely a matter of crushing dreams, it's a matter of destroying lives.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson