By Lindsay Steele
When I open the windows of my office at the Chancery in Davenport and listen closely, I can hear the sounds of Assumption High School’s marching band practicing outdoors each afternoon. Every day, the band members sound a little bit better as they master their fight song and selections from the “Shrek” movies.
Listening to them brings back memories of my own high school marching band experience — my “glory days,” if you will.
At my alma mater, Geneseo High School in Geneseo, Ill., the marching band was nearly as well known and respected as the famous “Green Machine” football team. At halftime, people didn’t leave their seats until the marching band left the field. We spent all summer and fall learning a complicated 12-minute show, complete with memorized music (or flag routines if you were in color guard like I was), and a memorized drill. We’d learn the drill set by set under the watchful and critical eye of our passionate instructors. Like the football team, we practiced after school, watched our performances in order to critique them, and competed.
The 2001 University of Illinois Marching Band Competition – our final competition during my junior year – was the pinnacle of my four years in marching band. In getting to that point, we had spent hundreds of hours in the hot sun rehearsing our “Jesus Christ Superstar” show, but because it was my favorite musical (once controversial in the Church due to its creative liberties but later endorsed by the Vatican in 1999), the preparation never really felt like work. I would often choose to meditate on the actual life of Jesus during run-throughs and performances, using the inspiration to throw my flag in the air just a little bit higher.
We received accolades for the show at previous competitions that year, and it was the most creative show we’d ever done. The color guard even had a dance number and acrobatics worked into the drill.
About 15 minutes before our University of Illinois performance, though, rain started to fall heavy on our heads, flags, drums and instruments. The instructors wondered if performing in the rain was a good idea, but we students were adamant about pressing forward. We had simply worked too hard not to.
Performing in the cold, hard rain was an adventure. One of our color guard members nearly slipped performing a back flip. Key pads on woodwind instruments got wet, making it hard to play, and a tympani head broke on the final hit. As captain of the color guard, I had a flag blow out of my hands during a toss while standing in front of the field on the 50-yard line.
Yet, after the performance, standing in soaked uniforms, we all realized that we had just experienced something magical. We had fought through the rain, received a standing ovation, and had produced a moment that none of us would ever forget. Not only that, but we ended up winning the competition and receiving an award for best color guard.
Last week, I found the video of this performance and posted it to my Facebook page for my fellow band members to watch and enjoy. In awe that 13 years had passed since the performance, our feelings of nostalgia were strong as we remembered every moment. To this day, that performance remains one of the most memorable moments of my life, and most of my classmates revealed feeling the same way.
A tinge of sadness comes from these memories because I may never again experience something like that. Of course, God asks us not to pine for the past too much, but it is fun to remember that season of my life from time to time. I am grateful to have experienced such a special moment.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)