Dear High School Football Fans,
High school football season is now upon us. Two-a-day practices are over and school has begun. Every Friday, communities will gather in their respective stadiums to cheer on their local boy heroes. Cheerleaders will jump and yell, parents will sell hot dogs and Fun Dip, and middle schoolers will walk in circles trying to look older than they are.
And, of course, the marching band will be there.
For most people, football games are the only times they ever get a glimpse of the kids that belong to high school band. If this is your only exposure to marching band, you may think the band’s main function is to support the local football team and pump up the crowd during halftime. You would be wrong and I’ll let you in on a little secret:
High school football fans, they’re not doing it for you.
That show that you’re tired of watching by the fourth week of the season….they’re not doing it for you.
The two weeks they sweat through band camp, carrying tubas and getting sunburned, to learn the show you’re not watching because you have to pee….they’re not doing it for you.
The taunts of “band fag!” they endure in the hallways of the school where they should feel safe and secure…they don’t endure them for you.
The mornings they show up at school 30 minutes early to march in the fog and dewy grass, as the weather gets steadily colder….they don’t do it for you.
The years of learning to play an instrument that some 12-year-old on the sidelines will try to launch a French fry into….they don’t do it for you.
Marching on while knowing that the general public completely misunderstands how and why they do what they do, as well as how hard it is to actually do….they’re not doing it for you.
I’m not saying the band kids don’t enjoy football games or don’t want to support their classmates with up-tempo versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Land of a Thousand Dances.” I grew up in a football-crazy town and loved watching and supporting my team from the band section. But I didn’t join band because of football games and I’m not in the minority.
Kids join marching band for many reasons: because they love music, because their friends are in it, because you have to be in marching band to participate in concert band (yes, there’s still band after football season is over)… the list goes on. They stay in band because of the camaraderie that is unique to the experience or because the intrinsic reward of scoring over a 90 at a marching band competition is worth the months of practice. They stay in band because they love the feeling of having worked hard together to accomplish something that no one could’ve accomplished on their own.
Certainly, the band plays an important role at football games. They are a vital part of the school spirit that pulses through each small town on chilly October evenings. Yes, the football team is worth being supported and a long-standing part of that tradition is to have the band there to play the national anthem, the school fight song, and any other music that helps bring the town together. But band students don’t owe you a halftime show. They aren’t rejects who can’t play sports, desperate to be part of the high school football experience. They’re not “nerds” relegated to an activity long-thought to be the final home of social rejects. They’re talented students who have discovered a craft they love and an activity they enjoy. Part of being involved in that activity means putting on a uniform and playing at half-time and that’s a great thing. But don’t think for a second that the long hours of practice and sweat are inspired by what Johnny Quarterback’s Grandma is going to think about their performance while she sits in the stands.
Band kids deserve your support because what they do is as worthwhile as any other activity….
but they don’t do it for you.