Flashback to 1982, when most of my non-academic waking moments seemed to be consumed by band: practicing (at 7 am, rain or shine, on the dewy football field), competing in countless competitions, and performing — in parades, concerts, tattoos (yes, that is a thing).
No wonder I struggle to re-create the notes as part of the Rye Town Community Band these days — back then I played constantly, even though I’m sure Mom thought I didn’t practice my clarinet enough.
With preparations under way for Port Chester High School’s 70th annual Band Night and Blue Key Concert on June 7, everyone’s bubbling over with memories of their experiences. It speaks volumes about the legacy of the band that so many people are jumping at the chance to play again. (Use this link to sign up, see who is coming, and get the music to, ahem, practice.)
Part of the event will include the creation of a documentary, The Pride of Port Chester Part II, a follow-up to the first history of the band filmed five years ago.
You can watch the first film here. (I’m in it briefly. Very briefly; find me at 46:39. I made such a huge impression the filmmaker, who is also doing Part II, didn’t remember interviewing me. I told him not to worry, I have that effect on lots of people.)
Somehow I’ve found myself on the committee gathering background information so the filmmaker can decide who to interview during the reunion weekend for the second documentary.
I spent part of last weekend unearthing pictures, competition programs and other memorabilia from our closets, trying to piece together key people and notable events from my tenure, and reaching out to others from the 1980s to get their help. (Late 1980s people, I still need your help! Email me at email@example.com.)
We were a motley crew, full of some crazy characters whose love of music was sparked way back in elementary school, then stoked by a series of dedicated, passionate (er, slightly crazy?) music teachers who worked like mad to pull the best out of us.
Naturally, it was a huge team commitment: We practiced constantly — memorizing all the music — and marched for hours in all weather. We spent hours on buses, traveling to parades and competitions. We helped pay for our trips and gear by selling fruit and candy, serving up spaghetti dinners and selling boosters. Tons of dedicated parents supported us, as did the community at large.
It sounds like a lot of work — and it was — but it was also a blast, and the rewards were sweet: Few experiences can ever beat perfectly nailing a routine as we did in Montreal in 1984, bringing the crowd to its feet in the process, knowing the trophy was ours.
Hearing everyone’s reminiscences have been fun — if not quite G rated. Much of what my fellow band members have shared surely will not end up in the documentary.
Parsing the anecdotes, old programs, photos and memorabilia (Imagine my surprise to find that I still have a pillowcase we stole from the hotel, wrote “We’re #1” on in red marker and hung out the bus window as we returned to PC from the Montreal competition in 1984!), I couldn’t help but be reminded that whatever year we marched with the band, we remain forever bound by the experience.
Lots of alumni going back decades will gather in June. And I’ll bet — whether they are on the field with those of us struggling to see the notes through our transitional lenses and get our aging fingers to move, or watching us from the stands — every one of them will stand a little taller, a little prouder, when that signature drum cadence starts.
The music moves us still.