Day 14 of 30 days of Gratitude: I am grateful for the Plymouth High Schools Marching Band

From my mother who was a drum majorette to my sister who played the clarinet, there has always been a connection in my family to the Plymouth High School marching band. By the time I was in high school, I no longer played an instrument. The flute only held my interest for a few months, and the piano…well…we won’t go there. One day a friend of mine suggested that we join colorguard. We would sell M&Ms and go to Disney. We could get glory jackets with ‘Plymouth-Carver’ on them. And we could be in parades. 

I was sold! Sure I couldn’t throw a rifle to save my life but I was sure I could learn. I ended up with a flag and something to do after school besides drama. We were quite the crew trying to do dropspins at the same time and failing. Miserably. I was told I needed to be at band camp that summer and found myself getting yelled at by a girl I was terrified to piss off. I managed to piss her off a lot, apparently. Lynn and I practiced and marched in the parades wearing royal blue shirts with white pants. White pants. I still can’t figure that one out. It is always a bad combination for me. 

Once I began learning the various tricks and routine, I fell in love with the whole band scene and for the first time really felt like I was part of something. I made friends, and became closer to ones I already was in classes with. There was a few groups I felt part of- the Woodwinds crew of Jen, Kristin, Andrea, and Kristen G and the drumline made up of Shari, Chris B and Jeff. In spite of the heinous uniforms which made absolutely NO SENSE to me at all (I mean, cowboy hats? Plymouth isn’t exactly close to Texas) I was so proud to be marching with my friends.  In those days we only had a few competitions (or maybe it was just one), and we didn’t practice every weekend like the kids do now. My daughter had a competition practically every weekend this fall. 

Tonight she got her letter and glory jacket. First thing I noticed was that they don’t print the town name on the back anymore.  They are blue with the PN on the front, name and graduation year on the sleeve. I remembered mine was a nice wool one with white caps on the shoulders and ‘Plymouth-Carver’ on the back. Vintage! Liz deserved every stitch on hers and then some. She began playing the flute at Nathaniel Morton, and I remember the day when she first held it in her hands and attempted to make a sound out of it. Currently, she plays the marimba, the flute and has played keyboards. She is the section leader for the front ensemble, aka ‘Pit’. This weekend marks her first Winter Percussion rehearsal. I can’t wait.

When each student was called to get their jacket, a parent would meet them in front, put it on them and have their picture taken with both band directors. Addie just happened to have to go ‘pees’ right when they were about to begin handing them out. Liz was called first. I missed it. I was so distraught my husband couldn’t speak to me for at least 5 minutes. I had been waiting for this for weeks! I loved band, I loved my jacket- how fitting it would have been for me to put hers on her? It took me almost an hour to walk through that disappointment and as I thought about my band life, I realized why I was so upset.

I wanted my second chance. You see, I was getting high at this point of my life. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I was definitely not sober when I received my jacket. It was awards night and as colorguard captain for Plymouth North, it was my responsibility to present awards to my teammates. Rather than think of poignant, thoughtful words to describe my friends, I chose the “Trying to be Funny” approach. It was awkward. People were really angry at me and I made a complete fool out of myself. I cringe when I think about it even now. The silence. The hurt expressions when I made a joke at someone’s expense. Losing track of what I was saying in front of PARENTS. It was just bad. 

Tonight we watched a video of the band’s last competition performance. It took place in Lawrence and they placed bronze. When the video began playing I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I heard Liz’s notes and watched kids that have shared many concerts performing together, move together in unison, on point. Practically flawless. Now, for those of you who were in band with me circa 1990, ‘flawless’ is not a word that would be anywhere near the phrase “Plymouth High Schools Band”. The colorguard was synchronized, the drumline strong and the movements were amazing. The kids kicked ass. Absolutely kicked ass. Words can’t express how proud I am of them. 

Liz’s first years in band were with a director named Mr. Leone. He was a hardass and scolded the kids when they didn’t practice. Called them ‘fishheads’. I loved him. I loved the music he brought out of them: Star Wars, Phantom of the Opera…I could hardly believe what I was hearing from these 5 and 6th graders. Now here they are as juniors and seniors. Incredible musicians with a love for band. You can see it when they march. They are pretty dead serious as they step in time down Sandwich street. They joke a lot, ALOT when they are waiting to step off but once they do….it’s on. 

The Parents’ Music Association talked about new uniforms tonight. Apparently, the uniforms they are wearing now are over 18 years old. The ones that were purchased when I was in band- the god awful blue and white, cowboy hat, gray sash, looks nothing like a Plymouth band should like uniform was only used for 6 years. 6 years. Wow. What a waste of money covered in lots of bad taste. The reason for the black uniforms they wear now is because of the two high schools. Can’t exactly have blue and white when the other colors are teal and black. Good thing, because those things were atrocious. Are you sensing a theme here? The good news is the Association is active and planning ahead. There is even talk of marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The sky is the limit, and these kids are willing to meet the bar. 

So when I thought about how disappointed I was, I had to look hard at the reason why. I made it about me. About my failures as a teenager. My shame when one of my friends snapped at me for being wasted at a function. It sucked and I wanted to have those minutes back. They are gone, and that’s ok. Liz looked great in her jacket and I couldn’t be prouder of her. If you are in Plymouth for the parade next week, the Plymouth High Schools Band is opening for the drum corp at Memorial Hall. If you can, go take a listen. 

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