Looking Back On My Years in Marching Band

By Mars Gifford, Staff Writer

Last night, I realized that I will never put on my high school marching band uniform again. I won’t have to worry about marching in straight lines or watching the diagonals. Never again will I jazz-run (backwards) to the back hash from the front. From “Space Wars” to “Goddess of Fire,” and “Labyrinth,” I made forever friendships and learned about hard work, patience, and my leadership abilities.

Going into high school I was nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t make a good impression, nervous that I’d get lost trying to find my classes, nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make new friends. If you can name it, I was nervous about it. However, before school even started I found one hundred and fifty friends who I could turn to whenever I needed something, from finding the bathrooms to asking for advice about a certain class. Band camp freshman year gave me my first new high school friends. Everyone in band was kind to me and supportive. Concert band was the first time I really learned how my clarinet’s sound fit in with the whole ensemble. I started listening to everyone else and really started taking direction from the band director.

Band camp my sophomore year gave me confidence. I could finally walk (in time), breathe (in time), and play (in time and correctly). I had the opportunity to be that welcoming person for the incoming freshman and even help give them pointers about walking (in time), breathing (in time), and playing (in time and correctly). Our field show that year was West Side Story, inspired by the previous year’s band trip to New York City. The music was so beautiful, and not just because it was recognizable. My favorite song was “Somewhere,” with the flugelhorn solo, and an opportunity for me to play what was at the time The Highest Note Ever.

Everything went up in flames my junior year in band. I had no idea what was going on half of the time. We had a new band director because of Mr. McQuilkin’s retirement, which meant new and longer practice times, new music warm ups, and a new culture. Mr. de la Vega emphasized “the journey,” meaning the growth of every individual, both as a musician and as a person.

My growth that year was primarily as a leader. I learned how to be punctual (fifteen minutes early), responsible (always with a plan B), and kind (sandwiching constructive criticism between two compliments). While being a section leader as a junior was difficult, I would not trade it for the world. I developed a love for my section; I became their biggest supporter and they became mine. I cannot even begin to explain my feelings of accomplishment and pure glee at the end of the season.

Senior year did not turn out how I thought it would. Everything was going great until half way through the season: Mr. de la Vega resigned, leaving the marching band in the hands of the student leadership. I easily felt overwhelmed, my role as section leader became that much more important. However, I knew I could get through the season. Just like at the beginning of the year, the band’s motivation and respect for the music was minimal, so the week following the announcement of his resignation, I put my best foot forward. Even though I was sad and scared, I went to practice excited and found new ways to make it fun. We tried Naruto running back to our dots after each rep and high-fiving the people immediately surrounding us. I even started giving out stickers. With every performance we got better and better; our scores improved by five points at each competition. I could have let the band director’s resignation defeat me, but I didn’t. I worked hard and used my limited resources (our techs, online videos, and past experience) to help everyone around me. I feel accomplished and proud looking back on this year’s marching season.

I honestly never thought marching band would end. The practices seemed endless, the water breaks few and far between, but now I will never play with that exact same group of people again. I am thankful for my time with Mr. McQuilkin and Mr. de la Vega and look forward to the upcoming semester with Mr. Flores. The band program at Quartz Hill gave me a family and a voice, as I know it will for other students in the years to come.