Why Marching Band Made Me a Decent Person

Nicole Doliner

I grew up in a small Massachusetts town, a place not unlike many other towns across America. We have some nice beaches, some cute local shopping areas, and the distinction of being the third largest town in terms of land area in the state. However, if you ask around in the world of marching band, many people will probably say they’ve heard of us. Why? Our band is phenomenal. This is not braggadocious; we have never not placed in the top five of every competition I’ve ever competed in. Our high school won three national titles for marching band while I was in the band, and won two bronze medals & a silver at an annual worldwide indoor percussion championship. I played clarinet and was drum major during the fall with the marching band, and also danced along with our indoor percussion group during the winter. Here are some keys to our success:

  • Punctuality

    I’m sure you’ve heard ‘if you’re early, you’re on time.’  Our band lived and died by that motto. Truly, you or someone in your family had better be dying if you weren’t going to be at a rehearsal. I’d get to rehearsal about a half an hour early to set up, stretch, and chat with friends before getting down to business. At the official start time, if you weren’t in position and ready to focus, you’d better be ready to take a lap around the football field -- not something anyone wants to do before three to four hours of marching & playing music.

  • Working for the Greater Good

    One of the beautiful things about marching band is that it’s super important to not only be on your own game, but to look out for others around you. If someone in your section was running late, you might grab their instrument for them and meet them down on the field. If an underclassman was having trouble with the marching technique, an upperclassman would always step up and give a helping hand. Someone would always have extra gloves in their instrument case, if you happened to lose one. If someone didn’t look good -- we ALL didn’t look good.

  • Multitasking

    Marching to the correct spot on the field, while playing the music properly, while making sure you were watching the drum major, while making sure you didn’t trip someone else, all while wearing a big goofy hat under bright stadium lights? It takes a LOT of coordination on your part. My brain worked overtime during a performance and then we’d be mentally drained afterwards.

  • Efficiency & Hard Work

    If you finished a section of a song, you ran back to your starting position, ready to go again. When you only have so many hours to practice, and you want to be the best, you need to fit in as many repetitions as possible. Even when it’s raining, you’re cold, or it’s 20 minutes past the time rehearsal should have been over, you needed to stick with it in order to be the best.

The rehearsals were long and difficult, but truly worth the feeling of winning at the end of the season. More importantly, these lessons have lasted me much longer than my knowledge of playing clarinet.

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