It’s over. Kendra fingered her horn (with her playing gloves on) and peered through the windows to the snowy pavement beyond. Done. Finished. Passed on. Ceased to be. Pushing up daisies. Shuffled off this mortal coil–
She vigorously shook her head to clear it of fragments of a Monty Python sketch. Now was not the time for humor; it was the time for mourning.
Though she was alone in the band hall, she raised her alto horn and played the low, sorrowful tune typically played on a trumpet. The funeral dirge sounded oddly low but no less solemn as she played the notes from a dusty memory. Her eyes welled as she struggled to recall the exact notes even as her fingers pressed down on the valves, and images from the season flashed before her eyes: carrying an orb at the 9/11 tribute show, scuttling across the field during homecoming, freezing her digits off at The Game while flurries plagued the band throughout halftime and beyond.
She didn’t notice the approach of the Fearless Leader until after she lowered her instrument. The Fearless Leader stood with a slight smile on his face (she imagined), his eyes sparkling. “Great job,” he began, his voice not unfriendly.
“Thanks,” Kendra murmured. The final notes of “Taps” still rang in her ears.
She squinted at the full-bodied flakes that cascaded from the heavens and coated everything in sight. Waiting for the bus to get back to her dorm was going to be…not fun. “I can’t believe it’s over,” she croaked, then turned to face the Fearless Leader. “Where did the season go?”
“Time is funny that way, Kendra,” replied the Fearless Leader. Kendra flinched with the revelation that he knew her name.
“But there will be next season. And the season after that,” came the sage voice of the Fearless Leader. “All will be well, Kendra. This is not a farewell; this is an ‘until we meet again.'”
Kendra nodded, her throat tight as she wondered what in the world her life would entail. No band? For a whole semester? But band was her life! She’d given her soul to it.
“Until we meet again,” she echoed,” wishing it could be football season forever.
Robert R. Robertson (R3): Good evening, A2. I am here with self-proclaimed band geek Jonina Jonana, a clarinet in the Michigan Marching Band. How are you today, Jonina?
Jonina Jonana (JJ): Bad.
R3: That’s nice. So, would you like to describe what you do in the band?
JJ: This is going really awkward. I don’t like this interview.
R3: But will you answer the question?
JJ: Yeah, man.
R3: OK…then t–
JJ: Hit me with your best shot. I’m waiting.
JJ: You’re pretty bad at this.
JJ: My dude, I’m gonna leave.
Are you writing all of this down?
JJ: Even that?
JJ: Are you gonna ask me anything?
R3: So, would you like to describe what you do in the band?
JJ: Well–I kinda just do what everyone else does. I play, I walk around the field with nice posture, um…I memorize my music, I memorize where to walk on the field…um…what else do I do?
R3: You tell me.
JJ: Um, I…I practice in my free time about 5 minutes a week because practice is built in practice, so why would I need to practice on my own? I…like to think that I’m pretty good at the clarinet. I don’t…um…I don’t know. I guess I should start taking this interview more seriously.
But in all seriousness, I really do love being in the marching band, and it really is an honor to play in it whenever we have a show and to be a part of this group of wonderful musicians. And even though I joke about it, I really am and will be forever grateful that I am part of the Michigan Marching Band. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you can’t really describe the experience to people. You have to really experience it to appreciate it.
R3: Like the TV networks?
JJ: Yeah, exactly. I feel like we put so much effort into it, and we’re the ones that really hype up the crowd, but I also think that none of us mind too much that we don’t get as much recognition because we know that we…um….
We don’t need others to tell us that we’re worthy. We already know we’re the best damn band in the land.
R3: Seems legit. So, Jonina, what made you want to play the clarinet, or stick, as I’ve heard them kids say?
JJ: To be honest, it was kind of a shot in the dark for me. In the first place I didn’t really want to be in the band anyway, but I figured it would be better than trying to sing in the chorus class, so I went for it. I picked the clarinet because I wanted to play an instrument that wasn’t heavy.
R3: Like the cymbals?
R3: Why the clarinet specifically? I mean, why not percussion or brass? What about being a woodwind spoke to you?
JJ: Like I said before, I just chose the first thing that I saw. It looked kinda cool, it wasn’t very heavy, and I figured I could probably make a sound out of it. So yeah, I went for it. Also, my sister plays the trumpet, and she’s annoying, so I didn’t really wanna play that.
R3: Your sister?
JJ: What’s it to you?
R3: Is she in the MMB?
JJ: No. She quit the trumpet after 1 year.
R3: Y tho?
JJ: Why not? Free will?
R3: Does she go to Michigan?
JJ: Do you think she goes to Michigan?
R3: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. Anyway, ya like jazz?
JJ: Not really.
R3: Oh, ok. Alas. Anyway, that’s all the time the network will give me because the big boss is too focused on the other sports. But thanks for your time, Jonina Jonana, and Go Wolverines!
As university students are swallowed up by impending finals and writer’s block, one marching band freshman wastes his time by compiling exhaustive profiles of all seven cymbal reserves…*
Hugh Beckham Aport (freshman). The first Hugh on the cymbal line when everyone’s last name is an alphabetical order, though he goes by his middle name, Beckham. Undeclared, but says he wants to study either chemical or mechanical engineering depending on how much the pre-rec courses destroy his will to live. Claims to love chameleons, but he mixed up a picture of a chameleon with that of an iguana, so we have our doubts.
Marcin Budzinski (sophomore). Computer Science (CS) major. Lives in Detroit and speaks fluent Polish. Only joined band this year after not opting to do it online last year because “My computer is where I code and play games, not cymbals.” Bit of a snarky boi who doesn’t like chicken nuggets.
Amos Frankiewicz (freshman). Prospective CS major. Currently getting a C in EECS 183 (which he always complains about). That’s about it.
Franklin Franklin (freshman). Not really sure what this dude wants to study, but I do know he’s obsessed with these stuffed octopi that can be reversed between a happy and a sad/angry face. He currently has upwards of 10 of them and frequently brings them to practice during the regular season. For some reason, he talks about himself in the third person with a dramatic voice. Rumor has it his middle name is also Franklin.
Hugh Addison “Hal” Lubanski (freshman). Prospective CS major (again). Is without a doubt, the coolest, most impassioned, and most dedicated football fan in the cymbal section and possibly the MMB, the only exception being the Fearless Leader of the band. Proponent of the most requested dining hall tater tots.
Millicent Polaco (sophomore). Another CS major. Likes to dye her hair and listen to depressing punk music (but not Mr. Brightside). Usually irritated by the awesomeness of people in the section like Hal. Hates stuffed octopi for some ungodly reason. Probably practices witchcraft in her spare time.
Maren Thomas (freshman). Undeclared freshman in College of Engineering. Hopes to study aerospace. Is one of those people who likes physics and does calculus for fun.
The author of this compendium did not do anything stupid in compiling this list.**
*This is 100,000% fictional.
**Not entirely true. He wrote this list when he should have been studying.***
***As did I.
Happy studying! May you get As on all your final exams and projects!
In light of our resounding victory against That Team Down South, your local band geek would be remiss not to write about The Game from the perspective of the Michigan Marching Band.
I’m just going to preface this with a simple yet eloquent statement: WE CRUSHED THEM, BABY!!!!!! YEEHAAAAAAWWWW!!!!!! ONLY ONE FOOTBALL TEAM IS GOING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND IT’S NOT THAT TEAM DOWN SOUTH! (As you can see, I’m still basking in the glory that comes from defeating Public Enemy #1.)
5:00 am. Yes, really–we arose at 5 am in the shadow of the waning night to get fired up for the day we had all been waiting for. Bundled up in multiple layers with our garment bags in tow,
we traversed the distance from our dwellings to the sanctified building known as Revelli Hall. For all the hype that coiled through the frigid atmosphere, the uncertainty of what lay ahead–namely, the expectation that we were going to lose–crouched in the backs of our minds for the most part.
We all wanted to win, of course. But being a Michigan fan, as we all know, means preparing for the worst during The Game. Were we going to be subjected to abysmal ref calls? Succumb to a walloping by That Team Down South (TTDS) for the ninth game in a row? Or were we finally going to show TTDS who was boss?
Pregame. In all my time as a marching band member (so basically just this season), I have never heard the fans be so loud. This was easily the rowdiest the student section has ever been. And when the band took the field doing entries? Utter chaos.
It was cheering for the most part, though there were spurts of intense booing that were audible with and without foam earplugs.
Truly, it was magical.
The First Half. Cold. Cold. Cooooooooooooooold. Where I’m from, temperatures do not dip this low for such extended periods during which we must be outside. Compared to the eager snow and vengeful wind, the sweater weather that dominated October was a tropical paradise. Lukewarm handwarmers, semi-numb fingertips, and–hang on a second–
WE GOT THE FIRST TOUCHDOWN OF THE GAME.
The rest of the first half unfolded as a true nail-biter (or glove-biter, if you were fortunate enough to have gloves). The holy band beanies were indeed a saving grace against the winter weather (it’s still fall, right? RIGHT!?!?!?!?!?!?)…until the time came for the halftime performance.
Halftime. Arguably the most crucial part of The Game other than the victory, the halftime performance provided heat where the weather did not. The dusting of snow revealed the tracks of marchers as we went through our drill, our breaths almost as visible as the bull’s ferocious puff at the end of the first song.
By the very end, my fingers were numb and I was in physical pain, but retrospectively it was awesome. And playing El Toro Caliente evidently worked, because the weather was less miserable during the third quarter.
The Second Half: Where it All Went Down. With each touchdown, each stands cheer, the tenuous hope we’d clung to throughout the first half gradually solidified. Was this really happening? Were we finally going to dominate TTDS?
I didn’t let my excitement carry me away until the fourth quarter. When the score was 28-20, I knew The Game could easily be tied with a TD and a two-point conversion, which has been a sore sport for the Wolverines this season (read: we’ve missed it every time, and the other teams seemingly snuck past our defense to score. Yes, I’m looking at you, Sparty).
Then, in the fourth quarter, it happened: the cymbal rank leader called Cheer 8.
The drumline calls a series of cheers throughout the game, each in a different context. Drum cheers are similar to stand tunes other than the fact that only the drumline plays. Cheer 8 is reserved for moments when we are definitively beating the other team and involves a dance that includes the whip, so its being called was a watershed. All of a sudden, the possibility of victory felt real.
When Haskins scored the sixth touchdown, we knew. The final minutes were those of surreal anticipation and chaotic thrills as the seconds ticked toward zero–
And then the football team rushed the field.
Triumph. Elation. Screaming brazenly as our lord and savior Carl Grapentine announced the final score to thousands of victorious Michigan fans. A fervent rendition of “The Victors” exploding from our instruments as fans began to storm the field. I sensed going into the season that the field would be stormed if we won The Game, but it was a mere fantasy, a wishful hope the dream of smashing TTDS would finally come true.
As my overjoyed hollering joined the ecstatic roars of thousands, the cold evaporated into a storm of maize and blue.
Aftermath. …for about ten minutes. Then, we had to wait for quite literally thousands of fans to clear the field. (Also, it was snowing again.) The field, when we did finally set foot onto it, was littered with detritus: primarily maize pom-poms, although I did spot a shot-sized bottle of Fireball whiskey.
The MMB celebrates wins by wearing our shakos backwards from the conclusion of our postgame performance to the moment we enter Revelli after cadencing there. Flipping around my shako as I had done for all the home games this season felt differently than before. It felt magical, incredible, fantastic. It also felt unstable because my chinstrap was not adjusted accordingly, and I was too dang cold to bother adjusting it. Perched as it was atop my beanie (with help from my hand holding it in place), my backwards shako bore the victory as I marched along the pavement with a giddy smile stretched across my face.
Although the regular season is over, the band/football season and this blog are far from finished! Tune in next week for more band-related hubbub.
From the tumultuous tides that churn and swirl in a slurry we hailed / Prowling growlers and missiles of ice / That slosh in the slush of hushed currents / In frenetic eternity.
Readily we traversed / The pulsating subsurface and tenuous night / The venous channels and crumpled paths / Under silent symphonies and sonorous skies / Until we found you.
A subtle force, we convened / Upon the bristled surface below the fickle water-sky / Across the ground that sops up shrill water / Or rejects it, eschews it into whiteness / Scattered across the tensile blades / erupting from matted black nuggets.
North of the end of the shifting stew we mounted / Our tuneful armor / Our wooden round shells hollowed by erosive war / Our skins stretched so finely clumsy flesh would rend / The precious surface before which we stewed / Our moldable bodies balanced securely between our vessels and our weapons.
Kindred warriors deluded by our stillness / Fused with our minds and our spiral limbs / Their blurred hands and cylinder knives / Rounded blades that sluice and pound / The sparse depths into oblivion / Elevated us with their hastily wrought words and / Thunderous melodies.
Laconic, we allowed / You to swarm around us intrigued by our plush plumpness and stitched-on jubilee / To accumulate in trickles and honey droves toward our piano demeanor.
In this soft stupor we encased you / Ensnared you in stuffed cages / Choked you gently into piles of fluff.
Now we breathe into your accordion lungs / We snuggle within your marimba memories / We wrap our tendrils round your cymbal hearts / We feed you / We cultivate you / We drive you toward the day when the city folds in on itself and the clouded day becomes our night / We whet our spongy forms against the steel and the temptation and the war chant / We fashion your limbs into brass weapons / Your voices into roars / We disassemble you and rewire you and arrange your valves in sinister permutations / We polish you until we are not of you but are you / Until the day when the stadium submits and all of you, all of you, answer to us. We are coming– for you.