When I was in college, a friend of mine convinced me to join the Marching Band. He played tuba in the band and was always sharing some story about his life in the band. I was always intrigued. It sounded fun
This was not just any Marching Band. This was “The Pride of Minnesota”, a Division 1, Big 10 Marching Band.
That year the Drumline was short people. They needed anyone that was capable to join the ranks.
That anyone was not me.
I couldn’t read music, I couldn’t play an instrument, and I sure as hell could not do both and march.
But I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I went to the Drumline practice room to check things out.
At that point in my life I was more of a ‘skater punk’ than anything else. Ripped jeans, hat pulled down low. I probably looked more like I was there to kick someones ass, than try out for the band.
I sat on the floor trying to take it all in.
‘What am I doing here?’
My mind could barely process what I was seeing. People were doing things on drums that I had only seen in movies or on TV during halftime shows.
The people in this room were serious, having practiced for years and spent countless hours honing their skills and learning the music before even stepping through the door.
Who was I to be here? Someone who can’t even read music, let alone have any rhythm.
I wanted nothing more than to pull my hat low, get up and sneak away.
I was out of my league, an impostor in a room full of musicians.
I didn’t walk out though.
In fact, I stuck with it and Marched for 4 years on the Cymbal Line, played on the Gopher Hockey Pep Band, went to 2 Hockey National Championships and 3 Football Bowl Games
It wasn’t easy. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
Music had to be memorized. Marching and choreography had to be precise. There were 8 Home Games and we learned a new show each week. Cadences and cheers, school songs, pageantry and movements all needed to be learned and memorized.
I practiced 30-40 hours a week with the band and countless hours on my own time learning to march in step to the beat of the music in my living room and make sense of all of those dots and lines on the paper.
For 4 years I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to that band.
I gave to them all I had in me and left nothing on the table.
Anything less would have been an insult to my teammates, to the 300 other people in that band. I owed it to them to be the best version of me I could be out on the Field on Saturday Game Days.
I wasn’t always perfect, and I am sure my carefree attitude betrayed how hard I worked to some, but being a teammate isn’t about accolades, it’s about doing everything you can to be the best you can be and not let the other people counting on you down.
Being a good teammate means not just showing up, but quietly putting in the work when no one else is watching.
I remember going to tryouts for my second year in the Band. Nothing was guaranteed. There were more people than spots on the line that year and just because I was a veteran of the Line did not mean my spot was guaranteed. I still had to earn it like everyone else.
Tryouts that year involved standing on stage at Northrop Auditorium, in front of the Drumline Director and Captains of the Line, and sight reading a piece of music you had never seen before. I felt naked and all my flaws exposed to the world.
As I stood on that stage and stared at the scribbles and chicken scratch on that piece of paper, my heart beating in my chest like I just completed a 25 mile Time Trial, I took a deep breath and played my heart out.