From the summer before seventh grade until the summer before I entered high school I went to band camp.
The first summer consisted of learning the basics with all the other clarinets, sounding like a flock of geese.
The next summer, though, we auditioned and I was thrilled when I found out I made the junior high honors band.
It was 1974 and our band director with black horn-rimmed glasses wore a white belt with white shoes almost every day. Except for the days when he wore black socks and dress shoes with Bermuda shorts.
It was the summer they played Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” over and over, interspersed with Ray Stevens screeching, “I hollered, Ethel, don’t look! But it was too late. She’d already got a free shot!”
Back in those early days, I actually practiced. Well, I practiced more than I did later on in my band career. By the time I got to high school, I might remember to take my horn home before we had auditions for chairs the next day. But the truth is, it just didn’t matter to me what chair I was. Not enough to practice, that is.
I just wanted to be good enough to fit in.
The next summer of band camp was critical, though, because it was rumored that the high school band directors checked out the kids who made the honors band and picked the ones they wanted for their own bands.
So you can imagine how relieved I was to make it into the high school honors band, but there were a lot of clarinets. Really good clarinet players.
And many of my friends had already been picked. For the Pride of the Raiders marching band.
The band I’d been watching march at football games during half-time all my life. When they marched down the field in a block and then turned and came back in a completely different formation, usually spelling something – when they turned and faced the press box side of the stadium, it was the biggest sound you’ve ever heard, the kind that gives you goose bumps. Or at least it does me. Rider fans didn’t get up during half-time. They passed up hot Dr. Pepper and Frito chili pie to hear the band instead. That’s how good it was.
And I desperately wanted to be a part of that band.
So I waited.
Until the very last week of band camp.
I’ll never forget that moment when Mr. Enloe dismissed us from practice that day and as I was cleaning the spit out of my horn, he came over to me.
“Sally, how would you like to be in the marching band next year?” Mr. Enloe asked me.
“I’d like that a lot,” I said.
“Well, good. You’re in.”
Music to every 13 year old’s ears.