From Russia With Love
Of all of my accounts of stupidity, I can believe I left this one out.
If you think back far enough, you’ve probably been guilty of wanting something you couldn’t have. I definitely have, and if you can guess what it is, I’ll rename this blog in your honor.
Okay, now that we’ve figured out that you didn’t guess it, here goes:
I wanted to be in the marching band.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I went to a small public school (same building Kindergarten through 12th grade) that was strapped for resources to say the least. As a result, this lack of resources led to no football team, which led to no school band. Actually there were only three extracurricular activities, playing baseball, playing basketball or watching one of the first two options.
So how did my marching band foray play out? When I started my freshman year of college, I continued taking piano lessons—I would finish with 11 years total when I figured out that an accounting degree and a minor in piano was not going to mesh. I actually auditioned for a teacher before school started, so I was on campus late in the summer one day right before band camp. The teacher asked me if I would be interested in the band. I quickly explained that I probably should not be considered because I thought it was a little too late to learn to toot “Stars and Stripes Forever” while marching in a straight line. He countered with that they needed another percussionist in the pit to play the xylophone. I could probably handle that; after all there would be no marching, and all of those years of piano lessons would probably translate well.
I had always wanted to play in the band. You could imagine my excitement. I only had a few weeks to learn the music that everyone else had been practicing all summer, but I put in overtime to master it. The show was a collection of songs from various James Bond movies. I loved it. I loved the music. I loved the geekiness of the bandies. Hell, I even loved James Bond. The first halftime show came a few weeks later, and I was great. I’ll admit it. Tina Turner herself could not have churned out a more moving version of “Golden Eyes.”
So, first week down and I’m really starting to enjoy this. Then Monday came.
It turns out that one of the members of the brass section got kicked out of school for drug use or something like that. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal except that the guy was a tuba player. You heard me, TUBA. Apparently, the entire halftime show had been choreographed around eight tubas; so only having seven wouldn’t work. So, I had to learn to march that tuba in four days. I was so scared. Not only did I not know how to march, I didn’t know the show. These seasoned veterans in the band world had been rehearsing for weeks. The band director thought that my liability as a novice marcher was less than that of an unbalanced visual presentation of “Secret Agent Man.”
Showtime arrives at the end of the week, and I’m a nervous wreck. If you haven’t figured out by now, I had no intentions (nor any expectations from anyone else) of actually playing music. I was just the show balancer. Not an easy feat when there are 250 people (counting dance line) on the field and I’m carrying the tuba, which can topple me over if the wind blows strongly enough.
You can probably guess where this is headed. I got confused once the show started, and before I knew it, I was in the midst of a pack of flutists. I ran into one and she fell. By the time I found my place in line, the show was almost over. I was almost off the field before someone in the stands noticed that I didn’t have a mouthpiece.
I kept with it though, and before long I was marching—complete with mouthpiece—like a pro. I continued on with the tuba, and got asked to play the cymbals during Christmas parade season. You would think this would be easier, but just imagine me running down the street in Belmont, Mississippi looking for my cymbal after the leather strap broke.
After that one season I retired my marching shoes. I did have a good time though, as I usually do. As I have proven, you don’t necessarily have to know how to play a tuba (or even know what the mouthpiece is) to be a tuba player.