Monday, August 07, 2006


Some of Jonathan's best high school memories are of marching band. In Iowa City, the marching bands traditionally began their season with "Heck Week." Students rehearsed in the mornings and evenings for a week. Then, on Friday night they hosted a pot-luck dinner and performed the show for their parents and families.

When Jonathan came home after the first morning of "Heck Week," he was grinning from ear to ear. I asked him how the morning had gone, how he liked marching band, etc. His response:

I love it. The trumpet players are insane.

Jonathan loved his three years of marching band at Iowa City West High School. Unfortunately, his fourth year at Oakton High School in Fairfax was less fullfilling. There are several reasons for this, one of which was that he injured his knee and had to stand on the sideline to play his part rather than marching.

There are some interesting differences between the two marching band programs in which our sons have participated. The Iowa City program was fun but not competitive. The band marched at football games and in the University of Iowa Homecoming Parade. Additionally, they competed in one regional competition and the state festival (in which all high schools participate). And if the football team was fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, the band played at playoff and championship games. The Iowa City bands played at lots of playoff and championship games because sporting events were religious experiences in that community.

In Virginia, marching band is a major sport. Joshua's band plays at football games and competes in four to six competitions each fall, plus state festival (again, all high school bands do states). Joshua's band does not have "Heck Week." They have something like "Heck Month." They begin rehearsing on August 1st, from 8AM to 4PM. For the third week of August they all go away to Marching Band Camp, where they rehearse intensely, morning, noon and night. On the last day of camp they perform their show, have dinner with their families, then do a concert band performance in the evening. After marching band camp, they return home and resume their daily rehearsals until school starts.

Joshua is now entering his third year of marching band at Oakton High School and he loves it. This year he is a section leader for the trombones. As I mentioned in a previous post, since school finished in June, band sections have been rehearsing throughout the summer.

In addition to marching band, Joshua has become a big fan of Drum & Bugle Corps (usually shortened to drum corps). Marching bands include woodwinds, brass, percussion and color guards. Drum corps drop the woodwinds, so they just have brass, percussion and color guards. One of Joshua's most-used and most-cherished gifts from last Christmas is the DVD collection of last year's Drum Corps Finals. The team pictured below, the Cadets (based in Pennsylvania), won the 2005 championship.

This past weekend, Dave, Joshua and I traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania for the last major competition before this week's finals. The photo below is the advertisement for the quarter-finals, which will be broadcast via satellite in theatres across the country. Yes, Joshua and I have our tickets and will be spending Thursday evening with lots of other marching band students, parents and teachers. It should be fun.

The three teams below - the Blue Devils, based in California, the Phantom Regiment and the Cavaliers, both based in Illinois - are the top contenders for the championship.

Drum Corps is becoming so popular that ESPN even shows some of their events on TV. Last year's ESPN telecast of the finals drew more viewers than some NHL games. This year they will be broadcasting a two-hour summary of the finals on Joshua's birthday. Guess what's playing on the big-screen at our house that night!

Watch out for more drum corps and marching band news over the next few months. Photos will be included.


Jenn said...

are you sure it's called "heck" week.....?????

Dave said...

By using the link from Evie's or my blog you can see pics of Josh's marching band at work. Most of the pics on the site from the current year have been taken by Josh...the rest by his father. Evie and I have been asked to be the official photographers for the music program.

Barbara said...

The high school music programme in Canada, is much more sedate as you know. Unfortunately Matthew and Spencer's high school doesn't have a great programme. Spencer wanted to go for a year, but we may end up moving him next school year.