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For the love of band geeks

October 8, 2012 - Carrie Olson
Sweaty and itchy.

I would sit in the high school band room in total dread of tugging on my uniform for a home football game. The polyester purple pants, white jacket, and hat. Oh, the hat. It wasn’t just some cap you threw on easily. No, it took mad skills. The snaps on the inside, the plastic neck strap that made you break out, and the plume. The gold and white feather that never pointed right needed to stick straight up. Not that it ever wanted to do that. Instead, it had it’s own mind and felt the need to appear at an angle or even attempt a curve.

In any case, I dreaded it. Absolutely hated the concept of pulling on that get-up.

Then why be in band, you ask? Well, because I absolutely loved every minute of it. Concert band, jazz band, small group, and even marching band. I looked forward to early morning practices out on the field or in the band room. When the bell ring meant that it was time for band — I ran for it. The first one there to greet the rest of the band geeks.

The moment we pulled on the uniforms, though, was a different story. Partly, it was because I am a bit OCD and need for certain things to be perfect. I was always first chair clarinet — from fifth grade until I graduated. (It wouldn’t have worked any other way. I seriously would have sabotaged someone else’s audition if I thought they would be a threat. Still would knock a girl out if I had to.) I admit, it caused a bit of a superiority complex. If I felt that some people didn’t live up to their band duties, I let them know. I remember one occasion, as a lowly freshman, when we were practicing out on the green. Some of the older flute and clarinet girls weren’t paying attention to the director and were being SO ANNOYING. They were talking to the flags and it was upsetting to me. So after a few minutes of this going on, I set my foot down and yelled, “Hey, can you girls shut the heck up and pay attention.” (Didn’t say heck.) This made me sooo popular. (As if I didn’t already need help in that department.) So while I made it a priority to perfect my footwork, I judged others as being mediocre (which would make me look bad.)

I made this statement abundantly clear to my band director, parents, and friends as the reason I didn’t want to perform in marching band — yet, it wasn’t the complete truth. (To some point, it was.)

I just didn’t want to perform in front of anybody. Wouldn’t it be just okay if we did this in secret? Let our parents come and see every once and while, but not the rest of the school? That is why I dreaded pulling on that uniform. Being in band wasn’t a popular choice at our school. Being in a sport, yes. Not band. Yet, I loved it. Always had. The only way to get out of marching band during the fall trimester was being a cheerleader or a football player. No coordination kind of knocked out both choices for me.

Toward the end of high school, I made it pretty obvious to all my fellow students that I marched to the beat of a different drummer. I didn’t need their approval. But who was I kidding? I yearned for it just like the next kid. It killed me that I wasn’t nominated for homecoming court, yet I pretended that I was super happy about it. When I wasn’t told about our senior prank until it was over and done, I acted too cool to care. And if I wasn’t asked to the school dance or was only asked as a back-up, I cried on my bed at home.

Each time I put on that uncomfortable uniform, I thought I would die out on the field. But I didn’t. Sure, there were a few kids who would point and laugh at us. And most of us didn’t sit in the cool student section of the bleachers. It felt awful. Yet, I always was able to forget it, even for just a few minutes, hanging with my fellow band geeks. These were my peeps. They were quirky, different, and possessed a sense of humor that was only funny to us. We spent many years together — attending parties, band trips, and listening to great music with one another.

Now, I don’t regret my time spent in band geekdom. Most of the friends I still keep in touch with from high school spent time practicing scales or playing “25 or 6 to 4” and “Proud Mary” in pep band during halftime at basketball games. And that is where I found my best friend and love of my life — hitting a snare drum with all his might.

There have definitely been many more moments of insecurity in my life since then, and I am a bit more able to admit them. But that is one part of my life that I am glad to have experienced, even if it made for a few uncomfortable moments. My only regret from that time period was not being able to loosen up and see that the “uncool” thing was actually pretty freakin’ awesome.

“Hot Crossed Buns” for life.


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Just missing that damn plume. I seriously hated that thing.


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