During my middle and high school years, my family moved around quite a bit and I ended up eventually attending four different high schools. You read that right: FOUR! That means that each year of my high school career, I marched in a different band.
From elementary up through middle and then on through my sophomore year all of my band experiences were pretty vanilla. And by vanilla I mean of the caucasian variety. I went to schools where the demographics were mostly white.
By the time I rolled up into my third band camp, I was ready for anything. The school that I was districted in my junior year was a predominantly black school. That year, I had more black friends than I had ever had before, even though many of my closest friends over the years were African American.
The marching show was terrific. Up until that point, I had really only marched run of the mill, middle of the road oldies and pop-oriented shows. This new school was different.
This new school was different. If you’re familiar with the awesome style and flavor that HBCU bands bring to their shows and competitions, you can already envision what I’m talking about.
High-steppin, choreographed dancing ON THE FIELD, trumpet spins while marching, side stepping during parades.And the music? Loved every second of it. We played R&B and hip hop on the show. During the percussion break the entire band set their instruments down and busted some moves, which included a company front from thirty to thirty with a “push-up wave” that rippled from one side of the field to the other (we put our feet on the shoulders of the person behind us all the way down the line).
Imagine me, a minority in that setting, in the middle of it all. I could have been out of sorts. I could have been uncomfortable, but I wasn’t. I was having the time of my life. The cool thing is that I fit right in. People accepted me because we had something in common, the music. I joined an awesome band family there that accepted me because of who I was and my love for music. There was no skin color, just band.
Nobody is perfect, they say, and I know that in our lifetimes we may never see the end of racial prejudice, in fact, we may never see it. But, I know that one thing is true: as we focus on what makes us the same, and celebrate the differences instead of fearing them, we become much better for it.
That year is a memory that will stick with me for my lifetime. It really hammered home the point that across the spectrum we might have different musical approaches, different styles of marching, different leadership styles, and even a different attitude when it comes to doing what we love so much. But when the dust settles, the important thing is that we are one big family, and when individual members have to move in and out of different branches of that family, it’s our love for music that connects us!