The Wando HS Marching Band, that is…from Mt. Pleasant, SC. It was part of my new, occasional part-time job with Music-Travel Consultants. I was escorting the 243-member band to the Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis, where 92 high school marching bands from around the country compete throughout a weekend of grand-scale festivities. I expect to take similar trips 3-4 times a year, whenever I can steal away from my “real” job.

And what a spectacle! If you’ve never seen this event, you should. Remember, I worked for BOA for a season a few years ago AND I’ve been a “band mom” for 10+ years, so this was no surprise to me, but still a rare look into another world of high-level performance and skill. Band directors, band booster presidents, band parents…and the actual corps of band members all form a unique culture with its own hierarchies. Even the bus drivers (we had 5 buses) have their own pecking order! As travel consultant (okay “escort” is my real title), I merely take a backseat and ensure everything that relates to food and travel is in order. The rest of the decisions and chaperoning are on them…

These kids and the adults who support and teach them should all be commended. They work extremely hard with great focus;  we were all at breakfast by 6 a.m. and weren’t back to our hotel rooms until midnight or later for 3 consecutive nights! That is tiring, for sure, since these kids are playing intricate music, marching complicated routines, and performing with great focus for most of the day in rehearsals and performances. They really had NO “play time” more than 15 minutes here and there!

Performance-wise, the band did great. It was only their second time to this event, driving 16 hours just to get here (as opposed to some of their competition who clearly have the “home court advantage” of being able to go home and take a nap between rehearsals, etc.). As the final note resounded in Lucas Oil Stadium, Wando HS came away with 12th place out of 92 bands…..a very respectable finish! I know they were disappointed, but with the Broadway-type productions that you see at this level, they did just fine with their touching show about Icarus and his father Daedalus who warned him not to fly too close to the sun. I look forward to seeing the next show they dream up!  Meanwhile, here are a few observations:

  • 4 all-out panic attacks, 3 stress-induced asthma attacks, 1 sprained ankle, and a few barfers;  thankfully they travel with a pediatrician + 2 nurses(parents).
  • When 5 buses pull into a Golden Corral or rest stop, people RUN in terror!
  • Teenaged boys demand bacon for breakfast.
  • The hotel Starbucks pushed out more than 140 custom drinks each morning to our band.
  • South Carolina kids were very excited to see a dusting of snow in Indy upon arrival.
  • Marching band kids are generally a very mannerly and intelligent group of teenagers;  they were ‘high-fiving’ their competitors and wishing them luck prior to their own final performance!

Where words fail, music speaks.
–Hans Christian Andersen

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