… and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you pesky kids!
(Scooby Doo? Am I the only fan? Ruh roh…)
But seriously, I almost stole a xylophone from Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, MI.
(And good thing, too, because I don’t know where I’d go with the letter X otherwise.)
Thankfully, we’ve just recently passed the statute of limitations on xylophone-related crimes and I can no longer be prosecuted… so it’s finally safe for me to share this story with you.
Band, and particularly marching band, is a super big deal in high school… if you’re in it.
Nerd alert, right?
Except it doesn’t matter because if you’re in the band, particularly the marching band, you’re too busy learning music and having a blast to care whether it makes you uncool or not.
Which is why that band camp line in American Pie is so universally funny to everyone. If you weren’t ever in band, you probably think they’re making fun of band nerds. But what you don’t realize is– we’re totally in the joke. Because band… well, band is like that. It’s insane. There’s long hours, physical activity, forced closeness, long periods of inactivity, huge commitments, ridiculous uniforms, so many things that make it so unique. And when you’re in it, you know you’re a dork, but you don’t even care. Because band is freaking FUN. Hard, yes. Intense, of course. But so much fun. So bonding. So cool to be a part of.
So that xylophone…
I told you how I was in the drumline, but drums were mainly my thing during the marching season… and only because we didn’t march with any keyed instruments and I liked the snare. It was fun to be part of the group that kept the rhythm– the cadences, the roll offs, the taps after the whistles. But during the concert season, I was dedicated primarily to keyed instruments… bells, chimes, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone. And oh man, I loved, loved, loved playing the xylophone.
(I also loved playing the beaded gourd, but sadly… only got to do it once during a performance. Perhaps in another life.)
At good old LHS, we actually had two xylophones (perks of having a percussionist as a band director, our section of very expensive, school-owned instruments was quite well-stocked)… one was in need of repair, but was great for practicing. It just had a broken string on the bottom that made some of the keys sound kind of dead, but otherwise completely intact.
Between my junior and senior year, the band director I’d come to know and love/hate (because that’s another thing about band– the director is like a parent and sometimes they throw tantrums and sometimes you do, but at the end of the day, you love each other, so it’s all good) offered to let me take home that busted xylophone for practicing… except he made absolutely no note of it for the incoming director. No one, except the people I chose to tell (you know, other band nerds who would be excited that I had a xylophone in my basement) knew anything about it. It was wonderful!
I kept it all year, no one ever the wiser. I practiced and practiced and practiced on it– particularly Sabre Dance, because it was fast and exciting and made me feel awesome when I played it. (Ugh, my poor parents!)
Until the day after I graduated from high school, when another kid from the percussion section showed up at my house to pick it up. I don’t know how he knew… I guess I must have said something, or maybe I said something to the new director out of guilt? I don’t know. But he came and got it and I was so sad that I got busted. Because that xylophone was sweet.
The other thing that was sweet? Being in the band.
Although I haven’t played a single note on anything other than a table top or a steering wheel since 2001, I still feel like music and being part of the music is a huge part of me. I hum Honor’s Band songs I haven’t heard since 2000 while I’m washing dishes. I play the cymbal part to Stars and Stripes Forever with my bare hands.
I loooove marches. (So does my two month old niece, Claire— it’s spectacular!)
I am a band nerd, through and through. I even almost stole a xylophone.
Maybe I’d still be a musical type person if I actually had.
Regardless, the band was a big part of my life and I will forever love all those people who experienced it with me (Kelly! Christin! Laura! Emily! Other Emily! Tammy! Kacey! Dolly! Alex! Stevie-D! yes, even Evan a little bit! and so on and so forth! you know who you are!). I told you about Tim Haight and making assumptions before… but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I have a million and one stories and even more lessons, but the biggest one is this: cool doesn’t matter. Not nearly as much as you might think. What really matters is what you enjoy. If you enjoy doing the “cool” things, more power to you, but if what you enjoy is anything else– do it anyway!
Turns out: cool, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Understanding that at the age of 15 is a challenge, yes. But when you’re in the band, your peers are in the same boat and at band camp (it’s a very real thing), during sectionals, while marching on the football field or along a parade route, on a long bus ride to band festival, you are cool, because you’re part of something big and fun and empowering and musical.
I imagine any group activity you really enjoy is like that, whether it’s a sport or drama or the school newspaper or yearbook or television station or whatever. These days, for me, it’s blogging (which is surprisingly communal) and book clubs and loving dogs and doing “homely” things that give me that community. That empowerment. That joy. And at 30 years old, it’s a lot easier to not worry about what other people think is cool.
Especially now that I can no longer be held responsible for any xylophone-related crimes. Whew.