Back to band


It turns out I was right. I can still play my school song without music, even after fifty years.

Some things just don’t leave your brain. Especially since during my years in high school band I am sure I played that song at least a thousand times at football games, in the band room, at concerts, in parades, and at pep band. So long before I graduated, I had the school song memorized without even trying.

When I first heard that South Hamilton was inviting community members to play in the school pep band at a recent basketball game, I decided I would be there. Pep band was always fun, and now I didn’t have to do anything but show up an hour before game time, find my place in the band room, and practice for a half-hour with the rest of the band. All I had to bring was a new reed. The school even supplied a horn for me to use, a good thing since my trusty tenor sax is long gone.

There were probably 10 to 12 community members who came out to play with the pep band that frigid Friday night. No doubt I was the oldest. We weren’t the pep band; we played with the pep band. I could have grandchildren the age of the teenagers in the band, and the band director didn’t really look much older than them.

So many changes since I was in band. Then the pep band sat on the edge of the stage that was on one side of the gym. Now schools have auditoriums for their stages, and pep bands assemble in the gym balcony. At my school now, the band room, where we were before the game, has to be a block from the gym via an inside hallway. It was up to each of us in the band to get ourselves, our horn, music, and music stand there when the band instructor dismissed us before the first game started.

Lucky for me, about halfway along my trek to the gym a nice middle school boy coming down the hall asked me if I needed help. At that point I didn’t even mind that he called me ma’am. I just handed over my music stand with thanks, and he carried it all the way to the balcony for me and set it up there.

Then there was the music. It’s changed, too. In my previous pep band life, we mostly played marches, but there wasn’t even one march in the packet of music I was handed. Instead, it was loud songs with a strong beat–like “YMCA”–that the band played well. The tunes added to the controlled rowdiness in the gym.

Even though I was unfamiliar with most of the songs we played, I was pleased that I started and ended most of them when the band did. And I loved belting out the school song again. No music needed.

Playing in a pep band for one evening was a lot of fun. I’d do it again. I recommend it.