Afternoon Inquisition 5.2

Earlier this week, I heard a news story on my early morning drive home that warmed my geeky little heart. Apparently, a band geek was attacked by a pair of thugs, intending to mug her, and she beat the shit out of them with her marching band baton. Awesome.

I wonder how many band geeks we have hanging out around here. Share your band geekery with me. What instrument did you play? Did you march? How do you feel this experience has impacted your life, if at all?

(In case you haven’t guessed, I was a total band geek. I played the clarinet, marched in the summers, and even served as my band’s drum major one year.)

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  1. I too was a band geek, played clarinet, and marched, and went to band camp. How did it affect me? I supposed I learned that there must be an easier way to make a living. Oh, and practicing in 15 degree November weather the year our team made the state championship pretty much put me off marching and football forever. By game time it had warmed up to 30, but it had also started raining. Suck, sucker, suckiest.

    Reading back it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the experience, but I did at least until that last game. In our high school there wasn’t really any stigma about being a band person. It’s just something people did so I didn’t even learn anything about defying social conventions. I still like the clarinet, but don’t spend the hour a day it would take to keep up with it.

  2. OK, now I want to see a movie about a gang of vigilante ninja band geeks. “Batons of Fury” – it practically writes itself. Anyone know a good scriptwriter?

  3. Kokomo-Haworth Huskies, 2nd place (by .4 points) in the 1979 Marching Bands of America. We were also the first marching band to score higher than 90 on Michigan scoring sheets (I believe this was at the Dundee Tattoo in ’78). During the years I was in high school, we were never ranked lower than the top-ten marching bands in the nation. I was lead trumpet during my junior and senior years.

    That said, I didn’t particularly care for marching, but participating in marching band and pep band was a prerequisite if you wanted to be in the jazz band. So I did marching band, pep band, concert band, and the jazz band. I also played in the local community band and occasionally with the local symphony.

    Went to Indiana University and earned bachelors degrees in trumpet and jazz studies. Worked for a couple of years as a full-time professional before deciding that it sucks trying to make a living playing the trumpet. I still perform regularly — mostly playing jazz in bars and nightclubs — although I don’t worry about living on the money I make, and don’t feel bad about turning down gigs that would suck.

  4. I was a total band geek and I miss it! I marched snare drum for four summers. My band didn’t do football games or anything; we just competed. It was awesome.

  5. Formerly hard-core tuba player here. Music scholarship and everything. Didn’t get quite as much action from it as you’d think, but probably still more than I would have otherwise.

    A big guy surrounded by metal wasn’t normally Target #1 for chicanery. My only real crime-fighting was escorting the baton girls (total combined weight for the 8 of them: 550 lbs) to the buses after away games to keep the drunken fools away. Auburn typically had 18-20 sousaphones per year, so we were quite the impressive, impenetrable metal wall.

    Had a guy try to grab one of the majorettes after a Florida game. He musta felt like he was being pelted with Geo Metros, if he felt anything.

    The story Carrie linked to reminds me of something I saw on the news here a couple of years ago. Someone tried to carjack a van that turned out to be full of karate students, with awesome results.

  6. I played a buncha instruments for a buncha bands in high school, college and university. But here’s an interesting story…kind of.

    At the university’s year-end concert, I did a solo act (apart from the concert bands I played in), and the director had never heard of “Robert Johnson”, so she was a little unsure where on the program to place my act. Taking a complete shot in the dark, this was the order: Madrigal Choir (which sang a bunch of songs about Jesus, and how much they’d love to do anything for him or some such thing), Flute Duet (which was just two flutes doing “Ave Maria’ and ‘Jupiter’), then me.

    This is what I did:

    Yeah…..not used to being around classical/christian music-types.

  7. I was recruited to the high school marching and concert band in 7th grade, and marched/played all the following 6 years. Played clarinet. Also piano, but just for myself. Tried to learn oboe, but decided to try this the week after I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Bad move.

    Kept playing clarinet in chamber orchestra and piano for myself all four years in college, then didn’t have any time for it in grad school. Haven’t touched a clarinet or piano in 8 years. :-(

    But I’ve told my husband – and I think we both keep forgetting – that I’d like a nice wooden clarinet for my birthday/anniversary/Christmas/whathaveyou. And I have a piano at my parents’ house that will find it’s way to where we live whenever we settle somewhere.

    I miss my music.

  8. I played percussion. Not just the drums but also keyboard percussion like the vibraphone and marimba. My absolute favorites to play though were the congas and timpani. I didn’t stop playing when I finished school either, I played for several years in a community big band (lots of fun wide range of experience and ages from high school kids to retired folks in their 70s). I did have to give it up because of pain in my wrists.

  9. That was at my old high school! :)

    I played marimba and tenor sax back in the day there, and that story’s been posted all over facebook on my band friends’ pages. It’s kinda crazy to see it picked up by all the national news outlets!

  10. I was in the drum line way back when. Played the bass drum. We were a nationally recognized competition band, always beating everyone in the region, usually beating everyone in the state and taking most of the top slots in national competition. We won Grand Nationals in 1982, my Junior year. After I graduated, however, the band didn’t do so well. I’m not sure why.

    We are taught growing up to be humble and modest but that experience taught me that sometimes we really are that good. Sometimes we really are better than everyone else and sometimes, just sometimes, we get recognized for it.

  11. I went to a high school that was so small it didn’t have a band, or a foot ball team, or a baseball team, or a track squad, no AV club, 4 computers in the entire school. So I ddin’t have to opportunity to be a band geek.

  12. I am a band geek who’s soon going to be hanging up his horn. I’ve been playing bassoon for 12 years, since 7th grade, the last 6 years with the army reserve on bassoon and trombone. My contract’s up in about a month (about damned time), and this is the only group I play with now, so I’ll not be in any band of any kind for the first time in many years. I just marched in a parade today, and this story was the subject of some conversation during the ride to and from the parade, too.

  13. I marched! And I loved it! I played the trombone for two years. Then, got sick of the band uniforms and my friends and I established our schools first Identity squad so we could “dance” more and wear skirts and ribbons in our hair instead of the huge tampon hats!

  14. I was never in the band.

    I would have joined in a minute, if I’d known you could smack folks in the head with your baton!

    I did have a band, however.

    It was called, coincidentally, Smac. (But we meant a little different kind of smack).

    Musical inspiration, eh, those were the daze.


  15. Flute (concert) and Piccolo (concert/marching). Band was a super big part of high school for me, though my director turned into a real dick. I have helped out with setting drill in the last couple years, as a friend of mine is now director at my high school.

    I have a lot of good memories about band, but I still have nightmares about the asshole director almost ten years later.

    Also, I did an exchange year during high school, the same year the American Pie came out. My classmates overseas thought the film was great and were really not interested in the true nature off band camp, especially since I was a flute player.

    Also, quite typically, I married a trumpet, but maintain that low brass are great if you want a really good time.

  16. Humm. The marching band always got the worst of it, and I think those of us “non-band” people distinguished between the MARCHING band and the “band-band”, though I doubt the distinction had any significance. A long, long time ago I thought the saxophone was something I could do, but I think that was because it sounded so much like “sexaphone,” even though that’s not really a word.

    For some reason the only “cool” instruments, as far as I could tell, were drums and the guitar. Guitar especially, as you can always see douch-ey guitarists in open areas on campuses throughout the nation. Not that all guitarists are douch-ey, but for many of those people it seems the only real reason they picked up the guitar is because they presumed that it would help them get laid. And you know what? It seems to work.

  17. I also played clarinet, only one of two guys in our school who did. Didn’t get me any dates but I got into a whole lot of hockey games for free. We marched one season for the football team…we sucked.

  18. Things is different in Australia. My high school had a pretty good music program, but no marching or anything resembling it, no pep band, and no call to play at any sports games. Small groups played at assemblies and we had big major concerts a couple of times a year. We all mixed together, so the viola players and cellists were just as cool as the sax and electric bass players.

    I started on trombone in the concert band, orchestra, and stage band, then in grade 10 swapped to tuba in the concert band and orchestra. I mainly swapped for the “my horn is bigger than yours” jokes, but tuens out I was actually a lot better on tuba than I was on trombone. We also had a lot of small student-convened groups that got places in the concerts. My brother and I each had our own funky jazz groups in different years.

    Of course I also played in community bands. I’m in a nice brass band that competes at the highest level in the country (never wins but), drinks heavily and tries to avoid marching. It’s a rare band here that attempts anything more than “down the road, left wheel, and try to stop on the line.”

  19. I was in the marching band drumline for three years, but I never did concert band or anything like that – it wasn’t as much fun.

  20. Interesting to see how many fellow skepchicks were “musos” (as we were called at my Australian school) . And what a walk down memory lane did this AI trigger….

    I was in the recorder marching band in primary school, then played flute, piccolo, alto and tenor sax (whatever was needed) in concert band, jazz band and school musical orchestras, and sang in the choir, at high school. My best friends were also musos – we had an all female sax section in the jazz band. Our uniform was black bottoms and white tops, and us girls used to wear the tiniest of black mini-skirts with sheer black stockings, black killer stilettoes, belted white men’s dress shirts and big bouffy 80s hair.

    My life pretty much revolved around music for 5 years and the happiest memories from school are pretty much all related to making music in some way – especially the camps we had to rehearse for the musicals (including sneaking out and smoking herbal substances at night).

    We were all having far too much fun to care what the other kids thought of us, though my high school boyfriend of 2 years was in the “toughie” crowd, who used to jeer at the musos . This didn’t stop him and a couple of mates from getting a part in “Sheik, Rattle and Roll” as eunichs (!!) so he could come to camp with me. On reflection a pretty brave thing for quite a shy guy to do against significant peer pressure from his mates.

    20 years later and living in another country, I’m still in touch with some of my fellow musos from those days. Haven’t played an instrument in years, but one day would like to have a piano and take lessons again, and join another a capella choir. I really enjoyed being a part of those groups and still hope to find a team of creative co-workers who work and play that well together.

    @SJBG: I miss my music too. Sigh!!

  21. My dad is a pro trumpet player/teacher (also sax and assorted brasswind). I played clarinet in 6th grade for a moment – that’s the closest I got to school band. I was/am more of a weirdo/wasteoid (to borrow a term from Mrs Poole) than geek. So…I got into playing guitar and keys and being in bands as soon as I could. In fact… I’M IN ONE RIGHT NOW!!! Dun Dun Dunnn!!

    PS – what is the Pope’s favorite chord?


  22. @Angus Prune:

    I started on trombone in the concert band, orchestra, and stage band, then in grade 10 swapped to tuba in the concert band and orchestra.

    As good a metaphor for evolution as you’re ever likely to find.

  23. I was never in a marching band, but played String Bass in the stage version.

  24. I didn’t play an instrument in marching band, but I did twirl one of those wooden rifles. (I still have one of my old practice ones, too!) They were heavy and would make an even better weapon than a baton. :)

  25. @caitcait: I played flute and piccolo and was in high school when American Pie came out too. I had a whole routine developed about, “Have you ever actually looked at the head of a flute? Do you see those sharp edges? Do you really think I’d use that to masturbate with when there are so many other options?”

    Never marched because my high schools were teeny tiny, but I did do pep band which was lots of fun. Tried to carry it on into college, but I audition horribly so never got anywhere with that. I did do a year of playing medieval recorder music, though, which I really enjoyed.

  26. Aw, man, I skip one day of my feeds and miss the most personally relevant AI EVAR.

    I was super bando back in high school. I started out playing crash cymbals in the marching band. In 9th grade I weighed about 90 pounds. In a strong breeze, I could hold a pair of 16″ cymbals out flat into the wind, and lean forward at about a 50 degree angle without falling over.

    I worked my way up through the drumline, playing bass drum and toms. During concert season, I played pretty much everything you could hit with a stick or mallet, excepting the tuned stuff. I was a percussionist in our county honors band for two years, and I played trap my senior year in the Jazz Band.

    At my first college, I played snare for two seasons in the pep band. Then I dropped out, and haven’t really picked up a stick since.I haven’t really had a living situation where I could play a drum without inciting roommates, neighbors or (now) my wife and baby daughter to murderous rage.

    Man, that’s been about 14 years now.

  27. I wasn’t a band geek, but knew many, as I went to a school with a famously large, famously good marching band.

    A good friend of mine played the Sousaphone (can’t call it a tuba if it’s the marching band, correct?); my suitemate was a flautist.

    Considering the amount of time my friends hauled the sousaphone around and my suitemate spent with with arms up at shoulder level playing her flute (they practiced for HOURS daily during football season), I wouldn’t mess with any band members. They had deceptively strong upper bodies. ;)

  28. as one-half of the droid band-geekery, I thought that this question (like Oscar Kennedy) was totally relevant to me.

    I have been a drummer nearly my entire life, one of the first things I was given when I could walk was a plastic Smurf drumset with these clunky fat-headed sticks (there are pictures of it somewhere). Once I hit fourth grade I started snare drum for my grade-school band, and then a few years later stepped up to trap-set for jazz band. Played in a few bands out of school bands (one was a punk band that had real potential, but we were just dumb kids living in “Country Music Conservative North Dakota”, so we broke up faster than the Pope can condemn another safe sex item, haha condemn/condom, anyways). So yeah, I did marching band where we placed first place each of my four years of high school in the Potato Bowl Parades, and played in pep band for the sporting events.

    Flash forward to years later in college, and there was my drum professor who told me that no matter how much playing I did, I would never amount to anything or be good. I knew he had always registered a 10 on the Dick-O-Meter, but with that comment he turned it up to 11. So I dropped the class and changed my major. I still play drumset now (am working on getting a new band started actually), but now I play for the geeky love of it….

  29. @ QuestionAuthority: I don’t know. Is it? People do that still? I have never heard it, if so. And they say internet has killed the phone…

    I learnt a new word today! That meets my quota of 1 thing learned every day. Now excuse me while I have my roommate tie my shoes for me…

  30. Totally was a band geek. Totally still am a band geek. I played saxophone, did jazz band, concert band, was a drum major, did all those all-state tryout things, band camp, college. Now, I’m a band director. And I even joined the national band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi. Beat that for geekery.

    A story I can tell about my band life: Playing hackey sack outside the stadium before a football game with the assistant band director. Everyone was picking on him because he could play hackey sack, and one guy got a little obnoxious about it. Well, turns out the director was pretty good back in the day. We passed him the sack, and he flip kicked it into said obnoxious guy’s nose. FTW, Dr. Teweleit!

  31. Definitely was (still am with the advent of rock band, LOL).

    Played clarinet from 4-8th grade, then was in the pit (xylo, bells, marimba, etc) from 9th-12th. Didn’t march on the field since we didnt have any mobile bells, but we played up near the front. In parades we carried our high school’s banner. We were in the 2001 Rose Bowl Parade and everything! :)

  32. @phlebas: zomg I loled!

    I used to sit right next to the band during football games ‘cuz several of my best friends were in band. Hahahaha. A band fag hag. That explains so much!

  33. Late to the party, but I was in school band and air cadet band. At school (a concert band) I played clarinet. In cadets (a marching band) I played the glockenspiel. Zero impact on my life. Now I play guitar…badly.

  34. My sisters were both in band in high school, but orchestra was offered to me in elementary school, so I took up the violin. At my high school our fairly large marching band won many awards every year and earned more money for the school than the athletics department most years. So, the band geeks were actually cool, and the orchestra nerds were not. Every year both groups came together to play at graduation, and there was some obvious tension (band was too loud and drowned out the strings, the band director was hard on the strings and the orchestra conductor was hard on the band… drama).

    I played from 5th grade to 11th grade, and then again for a year in college. I played in a local community orchestra for a year off and on, but just couldn’t really find the time to practice.

    I was never really good enough to play professionally, but always missed it when I went too long without playing. Last summer I saw an auditions ad in the local Independent for an orchestra that called itself RTOOT (the Really Terrible Orchestra Of the Triangle). I went to website ( and was instantly amused. I tried out and was terrible enough, so I’ve been playing with them since.

    If anyone is in North Carolina, particularly the Raleigh area, our next concert is May 19th at Meredith College. And if you’re interested in playing, I’m sure we could use some more players. As far as I can tell, we’ll take anything – we have a didgeridoo player. ;)

  35. @eatsbugs:
    I also joined Kappa Kappa Psi (Alpha Eta chapter) in college (pledged Fall ’92) – nice to see a brother on these boards. I played trumpet from junior high up through high school, then switched to baritone horn in my senior year. I was in the University of Florida marching band from ’91 to ’94, and concert band from ’91 to ’97.

    The one “band geek self-defense” story came during the ’96 season (I could be wrong on the date), when Florida traveled to Tennessee for a game. After the game as the band was leaving, they apparently had to pass through a crowd of (mostly drunken) very hostile Tennessee fans. The band folks did their best to tighten up the ranks and keep from getting separated, but a portion of them ended up being separated from the main body. A couple of scuffles broke out, and were shortly broken up, and a mellophone was broken somehow, but one fan made the mistake of punching one of the drummers, who happened to be a quad player. Of course, quad players don’t use drumsticks – they use mallets with a pretty hard head – so the puncher got a broken jaw, and was subsequently loaded into an ambulance. About that time I think people dispersed from around the Florida band folks. Since that year, the Florida band has made it a practice to provide escorts (Florida band members) for visiting bands who come to our stadium, to make sure that overzealous Florida fans don’t molest them.

  36. I was a flag girl and while in a parade for our local university there was a guy with a video camera trying to tape up girls skirts. You can imagine how hand my flag pole was that morning. One good spin and he was out of there!

  37. Since I don’t get the opportunity to brag about this very often I thought I’d take this rare chance. In high school I was in the Plymouth Canton Marching Band, and my sophomore year we won the Bands of America’s Grand Nationals.

    I played the Baritone Sax.

    I really don’t think the experience added much to my life.

  38. I played trumpet for Churchill HS in Texas…where everything was fantastically competitive.

  39. Flute and Violin. I played violin during marching season to avoid marching. And flute the rest of the year.

  40. I was a total geek. I played French horn, which is about as geeky as you can get. So I took up guitar in high school, thinking that I’d be cool and get girls. That sure didn’t work.

  41. Tuba. The band I was in won just about everything we entered. We used to make fun of the football team. Individually.

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