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This season was only the second year that I had been in marching band, even though we did do parades in middle school. The year before, I was selected to be drum major of the upcoming marching season. I was excited to meet the challenge of getting back to the state championships. It was also nerve-racking because I felt if we didn't make it to state, it would be my fault. To be truthful, later on I experienced both sentiments from some of the most influential, heart-warming, absolutely awesome friends that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. This would be the year that our band would adopt its slogan, its mission statement: Band #1.
Two weeks before school even started, the Hotchkiss High School Marching Band began its march to the state-qualifying competition in Delta. We worked four hours a day for five days, getting our fundamentals going and getting a feel for our new show. Once school did start, we started practice at 7:00 a.m. and went for two hours every day, working on music and marching. Our band was once again small (eighteen people!), but our sound was great. It was actually easier trying to teach a smaller group because of the difficulty of the moves we were attempting. Of course, I didn't help matters much by my trials of congeniality with the podium. I figured if I didn't fly off with flapping of my arms, then surely I would walk right off the stand.
The season shuffled along with surprising ease. By this time we had learned all of the show and were weeding it out to make it perfect. While fulfilling the amount of work needed to create a spectacular performance, we had a little fun in Fort Collins at the CSU Band Day. Along with the CSU Marching Band, our band learned their marching songs and sets and performed a show for a crowd of over 15,000 people!
This fun could only last so long, however, and so the Hotchkiss High School Marching Band prepared for Grand Junction band day. We traversed the sixty miles down to the city in which we would compete. The day became toasty as it was still the start of October. Despite the heat, the parade amazingly stayed together and field show brought a tear to our director's eye. She promptly let us know, though, that it would take more next time-we knew it would, too.
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The next five days after Grand Junction would determine if our story-like series would end in a sequel or finish off the rightly-deserved trilogy. This is how long we anticipated the arrival of the state-qualifying competition in Delta. Soon, after we could do no more to make things perfect, the thought of beating Paonia and winning a place at state actually became a reality, so real that you could take it, throw it on the ground, and march it right in to the dirt. There was no parade this go-around, but our inspection was superb. Inspection is where our band must stand at attention while Air Force and Army officials, usually recruiters from around the area, try to cheaply make you break your attention.
Our attentive attitudes sparked the flame that fed the fire for our routine. It was during this time that the day went into super slow-motion. Up on the podium, the cheers from the crowd bounced off the back of my ears as the natural high of trumpets, the sexy smoothness of the saxophones, and the great bottom line by the low brass echoed back. The boom-boom of the bass drum was totally in sync with its snare counterpart while the woodwinds blew up a storm. When the show ended, a roar of "Hotchkiss! Hotchkiss! Hotchkiss!" waved over the field and we knew that that had been our best show to date, signified by the gleaming faces pointed toward the press box. After taking it off the field, we watched other bands compete until it was time for the awards ceremony. I changed back into my uniform with the gut feeling of state right within reach; I just had to step forward and take it.
The freshly cut football field folded under each step of my fellow drum majors and myself. As it was the middle of the afternoon, the sun's rays luminously shined down on everything in their path, perhaps foreshadowing the great luck we would have that day. I marched single-file along the sideline of the field and peacefully came to parade rest slightly to the right of where my band crew was sitting.
After a while of watching and waiting for the results to be finalized, I realize something. I was put on the field to anxiously await the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. I could have imitated the beer in the paint shaker scene from "The Simpsons" with the way my hands were shaking. The calm expression felt from my face made me think I hid it well. While a small breeze came across my face from the left, the announcer began with the results of division 1A-2A.
The commentator seemed to drag through the announcement of all the categories in which we didn't have the resources to participate. Finally came the moment for which we had all been suspensefully waiting: The winner of the 1A-2A field show (the main portion of the competition). First came the announcement of Cedaredge's first place victory, which was obvious to anyone who had watched its show. Next would come one of the biggest things to happen and influence this band geek's life: the second place winner.
This was extremely exciting because first and second place in the field show received an invitation to state. The announcer reared his voice and forcefully explained, "The second place winner in the field show competition is..." After what felt like a lifetime of nervousness compiled into ten minutes, "...The Hotchkiss High School Marching Band!" The faithful support we had received all day made it seem like we had a 19th man out on the grass. As one could have predicted, the Marching Bulldogs led the charge. If a band won a certain award, its drum major did their salute to the crowd. As this was the biggest award of the day, you can imagine my actions. Ironically, I just stood there in awe. Like a deer caught in the headlights, dressed-up in a plume and dickie, it seemed like I stared forever at the stands. Simultaneously, the only sight and sound that caused me to see were my friends. I stepped forward from the perfectly straight line and greeted the guys, girls, and band director who, by this time, were all friends. All of the hours worked and time given working hard and playing harder rolled into one emotion when our elated grins met.
Soon all of the awards had been given and since we were about to tip the bus, we were in for a pretty crazy twenty miles. These twenty miles winded back to Hotchkiss, where our crew was welcomed back as a state-qualifying team, reminiscent of the decorative flyers hanging everywhere, encouraging us to keep striving for gold. Our band made an appearance at state two weeks afterward and came back with our pride. During this season, I learned what it meant to lead the Hotchkiss High School Marching Band. Music became my passion for life, not just because of the incomparable feeling of creating something for people to see, listen to, and enjoy, but mostly because of the friendships made from this mutual emotion. All of these companions who were in the band, including myself, also realized something that became our goal: to reach state and exemplify our motto, our mission, our everything-Band #1.