The experience was awful, but I miss the suffering

Published 10:34 am Thursday, July 27, 2017

was out at the city softball fields for a church league softball game the other week when I caught the faintest whisper of a familiar sound echoing from the horizon.

A rhythmic boom that reverberated around in perfect time. I knew this sound. I had encased myself in this sound for three years in high school, but I couldn’t place it.

Standing in the dugout of the softball fields it didn’t fit and would come and go with the pattern of the wind carrying the sounds along. This familiar sound of a drum marking time for a band.

Then I glanced towards the horizon and I found the source of this sound I new so well. The lights on the top of the hill glittered off the tubas as the marching band at Vicksburg High took advantage of a reprieve from the heat and worked on their halftime show by moonlight and field lights.

The sound of a drum is one of those sensual sounds that immediately transports me through time and place back to the practice fields of Brunswick High in Brunswick, Ga.

Charles Dickens could have been writing about band camp when he began a Tale of Two Cities exclaiming, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Band camp is miserable, but I wouldn’t trade a second of the hours I spent on that practice field for anything.

The sound echoes with no reprieve as you step by step learn the drill for the new show. Drill sheets in hand, and unlike the other instrument groups who leave their instruments on the sideline, a bass drum strapped to my chest. The sweat is pouring, my back is aching as I redevelop the muscles to carry my drum and we are slowly moving from formation to formation time and time again.

That sound of the snare drum echoing on the horizon takes me back in a way few other things can. Band camp brings you closer and forms a family that people outside the band will never understand.

The football team may have gotten two-a-days canceled, but not the band. Mornings were spent on the field working drills before the sun gets to its peak. Afternoons you spent learning music in your section then working to bring it together as a band. Day by day memorizing steps and music and then remembering them together (it really does help to remember the music when you tie the steps to it).

Then we would get a dinner break and be back on the field running drill as the sun set and it began to cool just a little.

By the end of camp, my back would be stronger, half the drill would be learned, most of the music would be memorized and boy could we not wait for game day. The thrill of the first game is exhilarating and terrifying as you hope to remember the steps, the music, and “Hey, look at the drum major!” (I can still hear them yelling at the drum line.)

Last week I had the chance to go visit the Warren Central band during percussion camp and it took everything I had not to grab a bass and join in with the line. Band camp was awful, but I sure do miss the suffering.