I don’t write a lot here about my three girls, at their request. All three of them have been involved in their school’s marching band. Marching band in Indiana in 2015 is not what it was when I was a member in high school. In addition to band practice during school each day, it now involves Monday-Friday rehearsals totaling 12.5 hours, a 3-week 8-5 daily summer camp, and Saturday practice/competitions from 6 a.m. until often the wee hours of Sunday morning. Suffice it to say, this is not an activity one embarks on lightly.
Although it’s my youngest child who is now involved, I don’t think I’ll ever lose the goosebumps that come from seeing the band take the field for a competition, or even for a football game halftime performance.
But if you look a little closer, off to the side, away from the action, you’ll notice about a dozen other band members. They are the alternates. They are the ones that break my heart.
The band purposely designs a show for a few less members than it expects to have. Many freshman members double for a single spot. Each learns the drill, and they alternate during practices. When there is a performance or competition, the directors tell the kids that morning which of the two will get to actually perform. The others stand on the sidelines.
I understand the reasoning behind this. It’s not unusual for a few kids (usually freshmen) to drop out of band early in the season. Alternates help reduce the problems this causes. Alternates also help ease freshmen in, and hopefully help ensure that performers on the field are the best the band has to offer.
But still. Imagine putting in all those hours, beginning in July, and then reaching state finals in November, only to learn you aren’t chosen to participate. Sure, you’re still on the field. But you’re not given the chance to give it your all with the rest of the “family.”
I respect the band for its excellence performances. And I also respect those kids on the sideline, because their task may be even harder.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
~ “On His Blindness,” by 17 century English poet John Milton