The Band Contest

by Andy Wood on April 11, 2008

in Life Currency, Turning Points, Words

A Turning Point Story

BandsThis is for all you jocks, coach dads, and soccer moms out there who never were in the band or had a kid in one.  Other than my year of football futility, the primary point of my non-academic energy was spent in the band.  And during football season, I got to wear the fuzzy hat.  Yep, I was the drum major – the band’s field director during my junior and senior year. 

The high point of marching season was traveling to either the Florida or Mississippi coast to participate in a regional band contest.  Can you imagine the energy, the excitement that fills a stadium when more than 30 bands gather and perform, with no football team in sight for miles?  Unlike football games, where half the crowd heads for the concession stands, at a contest people in the stands cheer loudly for every slick move, every powerful burst through the line.  And did I mention that there isn’t a football team in sight?

It was cool.

When you go to a contest, you’ve practiced for weeks to perfect a show.  Everybody gets a rating, from one to four.  One is superior, and you get a trophy.  Four means don’t come back next year.  Two or three means nice try – maybe you can do better next time.  And not only does the band get a rating, so does the drum major, the color guard, the auxiliaries, and the drum corps.

My junior year, we went to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to a contest hosted by the Choctawhatchee High School Big Green Indians.  There may be schools richer in tradition, but we were in awe with what we saw.  They weren’t just a band – they were Stylemarchers.  Huge.  Loud.  Each wore his own hand-made headdress.  And could they ever march.  Spread out, they covered an entire football field.  Had their own fight song, too.

Holey moley! It’s a Big Green Indian!

Tell me, brother, have you seen him run?

Holey moley! it’s a Big Green Indian.

You can’t stop him with a rope, knife, or gun.

No, you can’t stop him with a rope, knife, or gun.

Style MarchersWe were from a big school, but it was a little intimidating to be the Davidson Warriors, playing in their house.  But play we did.  With all we had.

The climax of the evening came when all the bands had played.  The Stylemarchers then came and put on a show-for-fun while the judges tabulated their results.  Then representatives from each band came out and stood on the hash marks while the stadium announcer read each band’s ratings.  If you got a one, you got a trophy.  Anything else, you went home empty-handed.

Here it came:  “W.P. Davidson High School, Mobile Alabama.  Drum Major, Two.”

The band got a one.  They rocked the stadium behind us.  We all went up together to get the band’s trophy.

I got a two.

Everybody else was nice, and said all the right things.  “Andy, you should have gotten a one.”  Easy for them to say.  They got a one.  I got a two.  I was disappointed.

We headed back to the buses.  Five of them, I think, it took to get us all there.   My sister and I shared a hanging bag, so I suggested she go ahead and change, and I told her I would wait.

So I waited.  And waited.  And waited and waited and waited.  It was hot, and humid, and my uniform, which was already really heavy, probably weighed another 25 pounds.  Everybody else had come back to the buses, but I didn’t see her anywhere.

Finally, on a whim, I checked her bus, and there she was –  seated, clothed, and in her right mind.  And there I stood, in my hot, heavy, sweaty, stinking, two-rated uniform. 

“Where’s the hanging bag?” I asked, perturbed.

“It’s under the bus.” she replied, as if I should know that.

Only eternity can recall what came out of my mouth next.  There before God and a fifth of the band, I let fly a tirade.  I hollered.  I cussed.  I screamed.  I made jaws drop.  I made her feel really bad.

I happened to be dating a very godly girl at the time, who was standing there watching all this happen.  I can still point to the place on my arm where Mary touched it and said, very gently, but very firmly:  “If you’re a Christian, show it now.”

Have you ever poured cold water on a hot fire?

I just hissed and wilted as all that pent up steam just went away.  I trudged alone to change.  And think.

It wasn’t about a hanging bag, or the inconvenience of having to wait.  It was about deferred responsibility.  I made a two and was disappointed.  I took it out on Deb.  I humiliated and embarrassed her, and made an ass of myself by blaming her for my disappointment.

If you’re a Christian, show it now. 

I know what it’s like to have financial pressure, when there’s too much month at the end of the money.  But don’t take it out on your kids. 

I understand what it’s like to face job stress, and the constant nagging feeling that whatever you do is never quite good enough.  But don’t take it out on your spouse. 

I know people who are headed for an unemployment line, pointing their finger the whole way.  I have seen homes and families splintered, and it’s always somebody else’s fault.  Wake up!  If your relationship to Jesus hasn’t given you a way to deal with failure, or stress, or disappointment, then your relationship to Jesus hasn’t done much for you.  If you’re a Christian, show it now.

The next year we went to contest on the Mississippi coast.  The band made a one.  I made a two.   But I took responsibility for my own disappointments.

I took my own hanging bag, too.

(Oh, and those Stylemarchers?  They’re still knockin’ it out, after all these years.  Three-time state champions in the last four years.)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

JoAnne Wood April 12, 2008 at 7:10 am

I fondly remember those days. Miss them also.

Daddy April 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

When we went back to the bus after the shows, some kids on the next bus came out screaming that a girl had passed out on their school’s bus. So, the ever present Red Cross First Aider headed over to their bus and found that the girl had hyperventilated. Having no paper bag available, I performed mouth to mouth resustation to her and she came around aok. She said that she’d been eating junk food all day and still had her band uniform on and got too hot. Her school’s Principal wrote a letter of thanks the the Davidson Principal.

Also I do remember the Choctawhatchee Indians and their band. Wow!

Debbie April 17, 2008 at 11:35 am

Funny how grace works! I don’t remember the “blow up” after all these years- probably a good thing considering what my response may have been. My memory just takes me to pictures of a big brother on his knees before school every morning, or digging deep into God’s word, or sharing life’s greatest treasure (salvation by grace through faith) with everyone he could through songs, conversations, writings, or sermons. Perfect? of course not,(says the inconsiderate sister who delayed your freedom from the humiliation of that uniform) but in the “big brother” category, mine gets a “one”.

Andy Wood April 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Grace, indeed! But that little spot on my arm where Mary touched it still burns occasionally.

Terry Richardson May 2, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I remember you telling this story in one of your sermons at TPCC. It touched me then, and, now. It is a very moving reminder to let Christ live through us, all the time. And, I know that we have all been in this same place. Mary gets high marks for saying the right thing at the right time.

Krissa October 13, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Awwww. This article is beautiful and very touching. I think you must be a wonderful person.
[preach at my church please?]

a high school band member

P.S. making those headdresses? not fun.

mary douglas January 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Happy New Year, Andy!

Andy Wood January 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm

And to you, cherished friend! I preached at Dauphin Way a couple of months ago and told this story – even pointed to the place on my arm where there is a life-long imaginary happy face tattooed there. Only I can see it, but it smiles up at me a lot.

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