Football and “The Dark Time”

As a marching band, one of our jobs is to support the football team on Friday nights and contribute to the atmosphere of the games. While we don’t go to every football game, we do attend every home game and some away games. I will admit, the last two years, I have especially loved going to games because it is always fun to be the band of the winning team. As our football team has gotten more and more successful, I have really started to appreciate the free access to football games.

I think that Myers Park is incredibly unique in the atmosphere at football games. The stereotypical cheerleaders and football players vs. the band has never been my experience. When I would talk to other Drum Majors at leadership conferences, I realized how lucky I was to be a member of the marching band at a school where there is mutual respect between the football players, cheerleaders, and band. The level of school spirit and unity that I love about football games is not what bands at other schools experience, so I am very grateful for our relationship with the players and cheerleaders.

Before the game, we play the National Anthem and MP fight song as the football players come out of a giant inflatable helmet. But, for the majority of the game, we are in the stands playing stands tunes. Mr. Blount does a fantastic job of picking a wide variety of stand tunes that are really fun to play and not your “average/boring” stands tunes. Some of my favorites are Sweet Caroline, the Avengers Theme Song, and Hey Ya.

While the staff and leadership team want you to have a fun time at the games, we are there to serve a much different purpose than the student section, and we are expected to hold ourselves to a higher standard of behavior. We leave the stands during half time to perform our show for the crowd. Towards the beginning of the season, we only perform part of the show for the crowd, but as we become more confident and learn the rest of the show, we perform our show in its entirety. These shows are our ‘warm-up’ for what competitions will feel like. As we are supporting the football team on Friday nights, many people don’t realize that we are also practicing all week to prepare for our own competition season. We have two or three practices per week and then a ‘mini band camp’ on Saturdays leading up to competition season. These Saturdays are all-day practices (normally in the stadium), and, I won’t lie to you, they are not the most fun you are ever going to have. By this time in the season, the band will occasionally become a little tired, and we affectionately call it ‘The Dark Time’. This is because school is in full swing and we are more stressed-out than we were during band camp since we have so many more responsibilities (that’s another reason to enjoy band camp: you only have to worry about band, nothing else).

This ‘in-between’ time right before our competition season is so difficult because you are working incredibly hard, without getting the reward of going to competitions and seeing your work pay off, yet. This is the easiest time to get complacent with your growth and want to stop pushing yourself to be better in practices, but the staff and leadership team understand this and do everything they can to liven things up with spirit days, lots of

encouragement, and some pretty great metaphors. I always loved the metaphors that John Andrew Goodale would use to help us get through this time. He would say, “When you are getting a snack from a vending machine, you have to put in a whole dollar to get it. Not 50 cents. Not even 99 cents will do. If you don’t put in the whole dollar, you will never get what you want. The caveat is, with marching band, the last few ‘cents’ are the hardest to get.” What he means is that your personal growth and the growth of the band will be exponential in the first few weeks, especially through band camp. You will see and hear the growth, which is very encouraging; we use that growth to motivate us to keep going. But, in the last few weeks before competition, the growth becomes less visible as we just have to practice over and over again to fix the small details that will help our scores in competitions but aren’t the most exciting things to correct.

This is the time that, as a leader, I am working incredibly hard to model the enthusiasm and excitement that I want everyone to have for the minute details of our show. To all of the first years, the best advice I can give you isn’t from me, it’s from Soren Lawrie (another senior graduating this year). The best way I can explain her personality is a walking ray of sunshine, and what she tells people is, “We all get tired sometimes during rehearsal, but power through and try to make someone else smile. It’ll make you smile!”

— Jennifer

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