Kyle was the first on up the following morning. He had set his alarm for six A.M. It was six zero one as Ethan crawled out of his tent. He could have had a better night's sleep, but now he was awake. John stirred in his bed, but didn't get up. Cory was snoring. The light in the room was dim, and it came mainly from the street lamps in the parking lot below. Ethan had left one of the lights on in the bathroom with the door closed; a dim ray of light flowed from under the door and scraped the carpet on the other side. "Breakfast is at seven thirty, right?" Kyle was sleepy. "Yeah. When are you going down?" "I'll probably go down around seven and meet Claudia in the lobby." "Ok." "Are you taking a shower now?" Kyle had already gathered his clothes in his arms and was making his way across the room. "Yeah, I'm going in now." Kyle entered the bathroom and shut the door behind him. Waiting for the shower to reopen, Ethan returned to his tent. Grabbing a Jolly Rancher that he had missed last night. He wrapped the blanket that he had used in its self and opened his suitcase. He pulled out the pair of gym shorts and the sweater and a light colored t-shirt that he would wear later. Having learned from last year, he had next dibs on the shower. "What time is it?" John didn't bother to look at the clock. It was six after six and John had no desire to be the last one in the shower. "I get the shower next." They could hear the water running on the other side of the room wall. "You get the shower after me." Ethan corrected him. "If I were you, I'd hurry up and get out of bed before Cory decides to get up." Cory had wrapped half of his body in the bed spread, but was now twitching as sleep fled from him. It was getting light outside and the sky was getting brighter. Ethan turned on the light in the room, and Cory woke up as he tried to defend his eyes. "Good morning, Cory." Ethan could tell that he hadn't been prepared for the lights to come on in the room. "What time is it?" Ethan had answered the same exact question two minutes ago. "I'd start getting you're stuff together, and cleaning up. Unless you want to do it after breakfast." "What time do we have to be downstairs?" "Breakfast is seven thirty, but Kyle and I are going down around seven." Cory was in no rush. In fact, none of them were. They didn't have to be downstairs for another hour, and there would be a chance to pack bags when they returned. "Kyle came out of the shower, just beginning to comb his hair. "Are you done?" Ethan reached for his clothes. "Yeah. Let me grab my deoderant and stuff, then you can go in." Kyle walked back to the bathroom and retrieved his toiletries. Ethan entered the bathroom, and closed the door behind him.
When Ethan exited the bathroom and reentered the room the television was on. Cory, sprawled out on his bed, had the remote in his hand as the same channel played as it had just a few hours ago. "My turn in the shower." Bang, Bang, Bang. There was a knock on the door as John sprang to his feet and claimed the bathroom. Kyle went to the door and found Alex going down the hall making sure that people were up. He shut the door as Alex continued down the hall. Moments later ther was a shrill scream in the hallway as a womans voice cursed and told a deamon to leave her the F alone. It was the same unfortunate lady from the night before. A door slammed. Rushing to the door, even Cory was out of bed this time. John came out of the bathroom to check also. In the hallway, other rooms poked their heads out of doorways as a band mom came down the corridor. "What the heck just happened?" Kyle asked Alex as he tried to hid himself in the frame of a neighboring doorway. "I didn't do it! They told me to make sure that everyone was up. They did not tell me there was some crazy lady on this floor!" Alex was hyper as he defended himself. "Wow." Kyle laughed as they shut the door to avoid becoming involved. Returning to his chari, Kyle finished getting his socks on and was now organizing one of his bags by his chair. Ethan's tent was in decent condition, and he firgure what was left to pack, could wait until after breakfast. "I'll be right back. Ethan opened the door and left the room. He flipped the bolt lock around so that it was in front of the door, this way he would be able to get back in. He didn't bother putting on his shoes as he walked down the hall towards the window at the end. There were a few people in the hall now, as the imminent danger of the crazy lady had passed. The band moms were on patrol, however, seeing to it that there was order. Peering out the window, the sun was just above the horizion. There were limited clouds, but not enough to be significant at the moment. The streets in the distance seemed quiet. The trick-or-treaters from last night were probably still in bed. It was Sunday, the first day of November, and they had had an extra hour to sleep in because of Daylight Savings Time. That was all that he had wanted to see, and he returned to the room.
Waiting it was almost seven o'clock, and Kyle decided to go downstairs. Ethan decided to wait a few more minutes and stayed in the room. When John was finished with the bathroom, Cory went in. "Hey, Cory, don't flood it this time." "Haha, very funny, John." Cory turned his back on John and dissapeared. Ethan decide to head downstairs as John got dressed.
There were about a dozen kids in the lobby when Ethan got down there. Most of them were just pausing for a moment and on their way to the "grand ballroom" for breakfast. Ethan followed them. The Grand Ballroom was past the conference room and down a corridor. Jackie and some colorguard were in front of him. After turning around to say good morning, they linked arms and skipped down the hall to breakfast. There was a good percentage of the band in the room when Ethan walked in. Several dozen tables were set up on two sides, a buffet row stood in the middle. They called the first table up as Ethan found Kyle and Claudia. "Hey guys." Olivia came up too and sat between Ethan and Kyle. Kelsey and Padro sat next to eachother while Paul Polk sat on the other side with his black hat pulled down far on his head. Their table got the go ahead to get breakfast. Walking over to joing the line at the buffet, Ethan stopped and decided that he would rather take some pictures. It was probably the only chance that he would get where the whole band was seated at once, and besides, the line was long and he would rather do anything than wait on a line.
He skimmed the room for people. Amy wasn't with her group and he couldn't pick out her blond hair anywhere. He took a couple of pictures at a neighboring table; a couple of flutes sat at that table. There was a bunch of people at the colorguard table. Brandon, the graduate, sat next to Miles, the freeshman at the percussion table. At Kirsten's table, Dana tired to turn he head away when she realized she was being stalked by a camera. The picture came out clear, aside from the blur above her shoulders. He stopped at Sarah's table and had he pose for a shot. He took seven pictures before he was satisfied. Her face was a bit blurred, but he had mannaged to get Chris's face in the background over her shoulder. It didn't amuse her, but he was sure that she would change her mind later down the road. Jessie hid under her plate in the buffet line, so Ethan continued to the other side of the room. Faith, Laura, and a group of freshmen had appearently been one of the first ones called up to eat, because they were heading back to the room already. Ethan took advantage of the moment, and seizured Faith with the camera's flash. He also mannaged to get an interesting photo of Laura, who had nearly successfully been able to avoid the camera's eye all season. Ethan went back to his table. "Gonna get anything?" Padro asked. "Yeah, I'm going now." The line was shorter now, and Ethan didn't have to wait long. He returned to the table with a plate of eggs and homefries, plus a danish. The rest of the buffet he avoided since he didn't eat meat. He went back for a cup of orange juice.
After eating all of his food he was finished. He had brought a green spiraled notebook down with him, and a pencil stuffed in the binding. Having left the book on the table, he pulled it towards him and took out the pencil. He began to write. "What are you doing?" Kyle asked. He had finished before Ethan and was now just sitting with Claudia. "Writing stuff." Ethan didn't want to be too specific. "Oh, yeah, that's right. You write everything down and take notes and stuff, right?" Ethan shrugged as he though of what to write.

Sunday November First.
Today is the first of November. It is the beginning of something New, something that only comes once a year. It rained yesterday after the sun had come out for a little while. We played inside. It was the best that this music has ever been played. It's now about seven thirty. We are all in the Grand Ballroom getting breakfast. This morning the sun is very bright and the makings of beauty are underway. The storm of yesterday is gone. Good things are unfolding. In six hours, the fate of the past six months will be determined. If there is one thing that we do know, however, we know that, no matter what happens today, we have already done it. We know that we have already come together as a band. We know that we have played the music with the passion that it deserves. We know that the odds are stacked against us. But we also know that we have touched greatness. No matter what happens today, we have already done it. We may finish eight, we may finish first. The doors are open to them all. The only thing stopping us from walking off that field is ten minutes of fate, and yet, we already know our fate. -EB

Ethan finished writing as one of the hotel staff came around to clear their plates. The table took their cue that breakfast was over, and they slowly got up and departed. Taking his time, Ethan walked back through the hall to the bedroom. He stopped at one of the windows as he spied Max and Mike standing across the courtyard on their third story balcony. Their room had a balcony. That wasn't fair, that they should have one and the rest of them not. The two of them swayed back and forth almost as if they were listening to music from Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Mike and Max waved at the spectators below as their swaying subsided. Eventually Ethan moved along. There were other people in the hall. Eventually, he made it back to their room. It was after eight and they had to be back downstairs, in uniform, by ten thirty.
Back on the third floor there was some commotion as Ethan made his way to his room. Apparently, Chelsea, one of the clarinet players was having trouble breathing. There were a few people standing around one of the doors as band moms tried to keep the kids away. Alex was standing in the doorway of the room that Chelsea had been in, and was talking to one of the parents. “Ok, the doctor is on his way up.” One of the band mom’s walked in and reported. Seconds later Mr. Roth came by the room. “What happened?” Ethan asked on of the kids who was standing in the hall next to him, watching. Mr. Garner came up also. “I think she had an asthma attack, and can’t breathe.” What a great way to start the day. Ethan thought. After Mr. Roth arrived, and it was apparent that Chelsea would be ok Alex left the room. “What happened?” Ethan asked his brother to clarify what he had just heard. “She had an asthma attack and couldn’t breathe.” “This happened just now?” “Yeah. She came up from breakfast and started laughing, then she couldn’t breathe.” Alex went downstairs. Ethan headed to his room.
Once back in the room, the first thing that Ethan did was work on moving all of his things out of his tent. He pressed all of his clothes deeper into his bag, and then threw a bag of Jolly Ranchers in front of them. After zipping the bag he made sure that all of the parts to his overhead projector were there, and sealed it in his suitcase. The pillow and the blanket he threw back on Cory’s bed. The tent came down quickly, and when it did the room suddenly expanded so that it was actually possible to walk in a straight line to the door. He spent the next few minutes folding and then opening and refolding the tent so that I would fit in the bag. Kyle made sure that all of his things were packed, while John still flipped through the channels. “Find the yoga channel” Kyle instructed John. “I’m can’t find it.” “They had it last year.” Last year, on the Sunday morning while they were preparing to leave the hotel, the four of them had come a cross a channel with people doing yoga. Kyle and John got really into it, and were doing yoga all over the room. They had called over to Katie and the group at the other hotel and told them to find the same channel. That was before Ethan walked through the screen door. Had you been there, you would have know the true beauty of it. “Yeah, dude, it’s not on here.” John had gone through all of the channels twice and there was no yoga. “Aw, that sucks.”
“Guys, this is gross.” Cory was complaining. “There’s marshmallow all over the place.” He poked at one of the marshmallow stains on the carpet.” “Are you serious?” They had spent several minutes the night before picking marshmallows up out over every corner of the room, and now there was apparently more to clean. “Yeah, look at this.” There were marshmallow stains on the wooden night stand and by the television. “Wow, that’s funny.” Ethan, having cleared his tent, went into the bathroom and got a washcloth, and soaked it in warm water. Even with the warm washcloth, the stains still stuck strong. “That’s just gross.” John was getting his bags together now.
“We should get changed now.” Kyle began to get his uniform out of the closet. Although they took their time it did not take long for Ethan and Kyle to get changed. John and Cory got changed, too, but not before almost mixing up their shoes. “Ok, I’m going down now.” Kyle was uniformed and ready to go. Ethan checked the floors once more for his things . Seeing that none of his things were going to be left mixed up with the blankets, or laying under the bed, he decided that it was ok to leave. Heading out, they went down together. Again ,with horns and bags in hand, the two of them headed to the stairwell. “As they headed down the stairs they passed Chelsea. “Ethan.” She got his attention. “Please thank your brother for me. He saved my life.” Ethan wasn’t quite sure what his brother’s roll had been earlier, but he assured her that he would.
In the lobby, kids in uniform were arriving from upstairs. There was already a decent cluster of them down on the couches. Kyle hopped in a big arm chair with Claudia. By the time John and Cory came down the lobby was a crowded place. In addition to the swarm of white tops and maroon bottoms, there were now heaps of baggage and instruments piled through out the place. Ethan could see that this wasn’t the best situation, and moved all five of his carry on items, plus his hat box, near a pillar that was closer to the door and more isolated. He would be able to get to his things much more easily when it came time to leave. Ethan saw the opportunity for another round of pictures. With the couches being filled up, Peaches, was sprawled out on the floor beside Dana Umble. A photo caught Stiney struggling with his uniform zipper. In the background Shelby approached Alex. The next frame had her in his lap. That was the third girl that the camera had caught him occupying the same space with. Bug-eyed glasses hid his emotions, and made him mad cool, Yo. Joanne and other sophomores stood around waiting, while Keri was energetic on a chair almost as small as she was. Sarah nearly lifted Jackie off the floor in a huge hug. Smiles ripped across their faces as Kingston, NY Tattooed the shoulder of their jackets. Patrick, now in uniform, clung to the Director’s Cup as Jackie now posed with him, Stiney, and Nick Craig. Nick’s mouth stayed open for two pictures, which gave him substantial resemblance to one of the fish in Finding Nemo, when they were chanting around the Temple of Doom, for those of you who know Pixar. Cherokee sat by himself with his glasses on. Mr. Shaut and Mrs. Sutton were talking to some members of the colorguard, but posed for a picture. John, Michael, Kelsey, and Jenna all crammed on to one couch for a picture. Seeing this, Keri ran over and squeezed next to Jenna; she didn't need much room. By now Jackie was on the other side of the lobby. She was tying Joe's hair in a pony tail when Ethan came over. Joe on his knees with Jackie behind him tying up his hair, it made a funny picture. Deborah stood not far from Harriet and a cluster of freshmen. Ethan continued to make his way around the lobby to kill time. He snapped a shot of Fred with the Director's cup, and one of Wolfie paying for a soda. “Ethan, Ethan what’s the temperature supposed to be today?” Sarah wanted to know. “Um, forty nine degrees and cloudy.” Ethan pulled the number out of thin air, but it satisfied Sarah.
There was no formal announcment that that they were leaving, but the mob of people funneling towards the lobby’s single exit indicated unquestionably that it was time. Ethan quickly scrambled to the other side of the room, where he had left his bags. Luckily, because he had moved them away from the piles of luggage in the middle of the room, his bags, despite being numerous and clumsy, were not hard to locate, so he managed to slip into the exiting flow quite quickly. Outside, the first three busses had parked fairly closeto the enterance. His had parked a distance away, though finding a coach bus in a lot full of cars is not the hardest thing in the world to do. Fitting his horn and suitcase under the bus, Ethan boarded.
“Zach, Zach.” Once everyone had, or most everyone, had gotten on board Ethan called across the bus to where Peaches was sitting. "Do you mind if I sit next to Margaret, Renae, and Erin today, and you can sit with Joel and Demeter.” “Yeah, that’s fine.” People in the band found that Peaches, because of his tendency to make him self more present than always need be, was a good selection of underclassmen to… mimic, more or less, but right now Ethan was glad that he was cooperating. The sophomore acted on the plan, however, with the commotion in the bus, it seemed more complicated than it needed to be as Peaches moved luggage around and informed Demeter. Ethan hadn't thought about moving their personal belongings, and thought it would be easier to not do so, but Peaches was now already well in the process.
"What are you doing? " Renae asked as he made a commotion of moving his belongings. "Moving my stuff, so that Ethan can sit with Margaret." Finally, Peaches was able to settle down across the aisle as Ethan took the seat next to Margaret.
There was a several minute delay between the seat swap and when the busses pulled out. “Ok, we’re going to do the count off again, ok, so go ahead.” “One.” “Two.” “Three.” Silence. After having gotten it the night before a sigh went through the bus as Cherokee missed his cue, yet again. The second time was the charm, this time. Both Patricks rode on board the bus this time as forty uniforms hung from the overhead compartments and draped down over the seats. Pulling out of the hotel for one last time, the busses had learned from the day before, and were able to cut all of the turns at just the right angle to sail out of the parking lot in one continuous motion without having to stop and realign themselves. It had gotten cloudier out since early that morning, and again, the lack of energy radiating down through the clouds seemed to be reflected in the energy of the bus.
As they merged on to the highway on their way to Skytop to warm up and eventually the Carrier Dome, the convoy was interrupted, for the first time, by two other busses. At first thought, it was inconceivable that such an atrocity should be allowed to happen, at second thought, there was a splendid realization that now their convoy was seven strong. Nine strong. They rode up on two more coach busses. What are the chances of nine coach busses from three different places being in a straight line on a highway. Ethan thought to himself. Nine coach busses.// Just as they came upon the last two, the first seven broke away. The busses that they had come upon were exiting the Throughway. At the same time, as the band picked up speed, the real convoy began to break away from the two imposters that had joined them, and the line began to splinter. It was only just then that Ethan thought to pull out his camera, but by then all that remained were the five busses, as impressive as they were.
The road to Skytop was mainly up hill, an unsurprising statement when considering the name Skytop, but one worth stating none the less. After pulling of the highway, the drive was one that spoke little to say Your final destination is Syracuse University. In fact, the roads only evolved from side streets to back roads as the final hill to the sky came into view. As the busses climbed, Ethan pulled out a pen and the green notebook, in which he had been keeping occasional thoughts. Margaret sat in the window seat next to him. They had said little in the silence of the bus on the way over. The side of her head was pressed against the glass window, gazing out at the dying trees flying by unstoppably now.

It is ten fifty nine. We’re on our way to Skytop. The last stop on the way to the carrier dome. No matter what happens now, it’s going to be hard for everyone. Win, or lose, it’s going to hurt. There is no way to know how we’ll do, there is no way to know around where we’ll place, but it doesn’t matter anyway. There will be tears of pain either way. I’m sitting next to Margaret. Renae and Erin are directly behind us. This is Margaret’s last. I can’t even finish this sentence. I have to tilt my head back and look out the window away from everyone to keep the moisture from spilling out of my eyes. This is her last competition. This is her last time wearing this uniform. She’s looking out her own window. We’re at Skytop. EB

The back roads that the busses had been toiling on for the past few minutes suddenly emerged into a large clearing with a parking lot on one side and a field on the other. A short but wide building stood a ways away. As the busses continued to their assigned area it was clear that this was the closest that they were going to get to the sky in Syracuse, but still it didn’t compare to the one back home.; there was a restaurant back home in Kingston called Skytop. It’s huge red lit sign stood on the side of a hill making its self as conspicuous as the Hollywood sign. Here, at the Skytop in Syracuse, the trees grew along the edge of the field blocking blocking what was sure to have been a spectacular view, but the truth be told, the spot was a nearly ideal location to set up a raspberry farm. Indeed, any raspberry would have been content to grow and prosper there.
The busses came to a halt and the drum majors exited them. The bus was now stirring as people clutched at their hat boxes and waited for instruction. The larger low brass players got off the busses first to get their instruments; Renae and Margaret left. Once it was seen that the other busses were letting non low brass players off of the busses, bus number five began to grow restless, until finally, the command was given to leave their hat boxes and to go find their section outside. It looked chilly, so Ethan bought his gloves. Dennis and Faith were already claiming a spot. Ethan and Kyle grabbed their horns and joined them. It was cold at Skytop, as Amy lead a mob of lost clarinets around looking for a spot. The rest of the horns showed up.
Fooling around, Alex pushed Colleen, and she tripped him. Him falling on the ground was not an uncommon occurrence in any situation, though, now, he didn’t fall. “So, what are we doing now?” Kyle asked Dennis as he joined Colleen and gave Alex a shove. They were always going back and forth doing something to one another. Alex tried to act cool and tough at the same time with his bug-eyed glasses and pretended to get aggressive and in Kyle’s face as Dennis responded. “That’s a good question.” There had been no specific orders yet, but Dennis got started anyway. “Um, get in the block in Jurassic Park.” Dennis wasn’t the most intimidating, or motivating, person, and slow the block was slow to for as the freshmen made fun of Alex’s glasses, but eventually they were there. Mr. Avossa, seeing that the horns were no longer waiting for members of their section came over and gave them instructions. “Go over marching techniques and stuff right now. Do some forward and backward stuff, freeze and waits, whatever you have in the show. Don‘t do any actual playing right now, but go over the marching.” Mr. Avossa moved on to the next section. Dennis got them started. “Ok. First forward for eight, backwards for eight.” Dennis snapped out a beat in his, unique, conducting pattern. On his command the grouped moved as a block for the said drill. That wasn’t difficult, it was just a warm up. “Ok, next we’re going to march in a square. Shift to the left for four, back for four, slide right for four, forward for four.” This time Dennis took them at a faster tempo, and it was a little more difficult, but not much. Faith stumbled as they started sliding to the right. “You know, Faith, Tom Cooney would have never stumbled like that.” “You know what, Dennis, stop it. Just stop it.” Throughout the season Dennis had endlessly compared Faith to Cooney, who had been his band buddy last year. Faith never could quite accept the fact that in Dennis’ eyes he shortcomings as a marcher glared indiscreetly in the shadow of Tom. For a moment it was like they were back at band camp. Dennis clapped out his tempos and the ten of them followed. This, however, was different from band camp. Working on marching technique at band camp had been fun. They had been able to fool around from time to time and criticize Dennis’ clapping volume. The difference between band camp and now was the difference between sixty days until Syracuse and one hour until Syracuse. Now, it was like Mr. Garner had said. They were here for a job, and that was priority number one.
After a bout of freeze and waits and step offs Dennis had the section form a large circle facing him at one end. “Now, we’re going to march in a circle.” That was new. “You have thirty two counts to make it all the way around, so you should be a quarter of the way around in eight counts and half way around in sixteen.” “Do we stop when we get around?” Andrew wanted to know. “No, keep going until I say stop. Make sure that you keep your spacings even, and don’t start squishing in.” It was weird to be marching in a circle, but after a few awkward rounds the group had gotten the hang of it and were maintaining their spacings sufficiently for Dennis to desist in his clapping. Jessie came over and suggested that Dennis review the two main visuals that they did in The Duel of the Fates and in Jurassic Park. They did. The first one was jump, circle, together, that they did in Jurassic Park. Jump on one, swing the top half of the body around in a circle on three and four, and then jump back to playing position on a specific count. That was the one they had added Friday night. The visual in Duel of the Fates was much easier, it was a simple face to one side for two counts, and then the other for two counts. A few drops of drizzle briefly blew from over the top of the hill.
The sections spent about ten minutes working in on drills and marching, before Mr. Avossa had the band circle up. “Guys, this is it. We perform in a little over an hour. You’re competition starts now. Now is when you need to be running the entire field show in your mind. Now is when you need to be thinking Where am I going, what am I doing, what am I playing? Right now, you need to be focused on the show, and nothing but the show. You need to be going over your music, going over your step offs, and counts, and all of the visuals. When am I here? When am I there. Ok? What we’re going to do now is we are going to run through the whole entire show right here, in this parking lot.” The band looked around. The parking lot was not an exceptionally large one, and it was nowhere near as large as a football field. “Now, I know that this isn’t how we normally march,” Mr. Avossa continued, “but I want you to get to your approximate starting positions for the show, using this side as the front side line.” There was a little bit of hesitancy in the band, but gradually they got the idea, and went to where they would be in proportion to everyone else. The horns followed Dennis to their “opening set.” Eventually the band was set up in a condensed version of the opening piece. “Now,” Mr. Avossa gave them more directions, “we’re going to play through the whole show, and do it moving.” Some chatter went through the band. “Now, everything is more condensed than it normally would be, so that means that whenever you’re moving, it doesn’t have to be the big steps that you normally take. You’re going to have to take much smaller steps to get where you need to be, but other than that, everything is the same. I don’t want you to play all out, but play what your music is. That means dynamics. Since we’re not marching as far as we normally do, that means you should be able to really focus on nailing all of the things, marching wise, that you need to do. I want you to exaggerate every move that you make, because when we go out on that field, there is going to be people sitting way far away from you, and I want them to be able to see exactly what it is you’re doing. Jackie.” Mr. Avossa stepped back, and Jackie prepared to run the band through their last run-through.
Despite the compression changes, the run through was a success. A cold drizzle blew through as they played, but the band kept on going. When they finished, they stood with their horns up for a moment. The drizzle moved on, reveling several week spots in the clouds, through which the sun peaked, briefly. There were a few cheers at the sun’s arrival. The band directors circled up the band again, and spoke to them. Mr. Garner spoke. “You guys are ready. What you guys have put into this show over the last several months, and the last weeks, and so far this weekend, you guys are ready. The time for words is over. Now, it’s time to go out there and kick some ass.” The band broke in to a cheer while the three directors stood in the middle. “When you guys finish that last song, we’re going to be falling over.” Mr. Garner was excited as he grabbed Mr. Shaut and Mr. Avossa’s shoulders. “I’m gonna go find someone with an infant and just chuck it!” Mr. Avossa was equally as excited. “Now we get on those busses and we go to and show then what Kingston is.” The band hurried back to the bus and boarded with their instruments; there would be no putting them down for the next hour or so. Ethan scribbled in his note book, before Margaret hopped in the seat with her tuba. The clouds came out and there was a cold drizzle; no one took notice. The sun came out, and we cheered.
Ethan snapped a few pictures of the field at Skytop before they pulled out. The portion of which he snapped the pictures wasn’t really a field, but more of an overgrown area of brush. Head tall bushes grew in the background. Like the trees, the thick growth was grey and all but a few patches of green had lost their leafy cover. A dead red tinged weed layered beside the green patches, and dead yellow grasses still stood off of the ground. A little patch of small blue star flowers dotted the scene near the ground. The sky was overcast; a blue and grey watercolor. He turned to snap a picture of Margaret, but she turned away, leaving the camera to capture the valves and bell of her instrument as well as the side of her shoulder and head, which reveled a braid of hair. The busses circled around the parking lot and headed down the road leading out of Skytop. East Ramapo warmed up outside the windows in a different parking lot.
There were several “false” domes on the way to the Carrier. These domes were smaller and more isolated than the one they were headed to, but they were still impressive enough to trick the new marchers on the bus who had never been there before. With in minutes they were pulling on to the campus of Syracuse University. There was an old looking brick building where the busses entered. They had to go down an alleyway type street, but when they turned the corner the road ran in front of modern type buildings. The busses came to a stop on the side of the road in front of one of the buildings. This was it, they were at the Carrier Dome. The band got off the busses and than began walking back down the sidewalk towards the place where they were to enter. Mr. Garner lead the way. Ethan, Margaret, and Renae walked as a group as the monster band walked up a small hill. Jenn and a few other girls who had graduated the year before walked across the road and came to join the band moms. It was sunny out now. Another band in their division drove by as they, too, arrived at the dome. As the band neared the top of the hill, they stopped at the enterance to the building. It was a huge building, though from the outside, it was not easy to tell that it was a dome. There were at least five different levels to the building that appeared to be solid concrete decks. In front of the band stood a huge door, such as the one that a truck would use to make a delivery. This door, however, was much more massive than the normal delivery door. It was at least twenty feet high, possibly thirty, and it was half as wide. The bright orange Syracuse color adorned the massive gate. As the band stood in a long line, five or so people wide on the average, and wrapped around the corner, it was almost as if the door would lead them into the Colosseum its self. There was a walkway above the door, a ridge on which people could stand and walk around the building. During a traditional university event the walkway was probably filled with sports fans trying to find a faster way to their seats. Now, however, it was filled with nothing but maroon sweatshirt bearing band moms and fans. There had to have been at least thirty individual people standing up there. The walkway made a semi-arch around where the band was standing, and the fans were standing above the band, looking down, and in the minutes that the band stood waiting it was like the whole world was there watching them, there to see their gladiators do battle. Emily, who had once conducted that very same band on that very same field now looked down on them also. Encouraging words flowed back and forth from the ground and the walkway above.
“So, you guys ready to do this?” Mr. Shaut came up to the trio. It was almost a rhetorical question, so Margaret made light of it. “Well, assuming that I don’t trip and fall flat on my face, then I guess that I’m halfway ready.” “Just do what you do and you’ll be fine.” Mr. Shaut moved up the line. As he did there was heard people shouting above. “One, two three! Let’s go Kingston!!!” Sam and Sage jumped up on the third level balcony of the building surprising everyone below. The band burst into cheers and applause at the sight and sound of the two newly graduated band members. Sam and Sage had always been ones to give some sort of laugh, and now they were back to see the band. There were now several students who had just graduated, but now six months later, they had come back to see their band perform in the most important competition of the season. The other band that had arrived after Kingston moved their stuff near to the entrance, but stayed a ways away. They were covered in thick make up pretending to be ghosts and skeletons; their theme was The Nightmare before Christmas.
Before long, it was time. The mammoth orange gate slowly slid open as the fans cheered from above. The gate rose, reveling a long dimly lit corridor. This was the entrance to the Colosseum, and now it was the gladiators turn to march on to the battle field as an army of noble misfits. Their maroon and white armor made them uniform, and lights glistened off of the golden areas of their helmets. Armed with weapons to kill on sight, their feet trumped the ground they walked on like deadened leaves. Now, as they entered into the dimness, there was no question as to whether what lay just ahead was a lady, or a tiger, fore they were the tigers, and this was their battle.
Inside, the natural light of the sun faded behind them as their gods remained outside awaiting their return. Inside the Colosseum, sporadic lights adorning the dimly lit hall leading them past their false idols. “Renae,” Ethan spoke as a strong wind blew through the passageway. “What time is it?” “The time is now.” Renae and Margaret both responded. “Where are you?” “We are in the moment.” The band rounded a corner in the corridor, and emerged into one of the locker rooms. Dark grey carpets made up the floor while the lockers were orange. The band piled in and pooled, waiting for instruction. Mr. Garner entered. “Quiet, quiet. I do not want any of you speaking right now, ok? Our show starts now. Right now the only thing on your mind should be your show. Right now you need to focus on the job that we are here to do. We’re here for a job, and that’s what you need to be focusing on right now, so I do not want anyone speaking right now. Section leaders, I want you to take your sections, right now, and tune. I want lowbrass over here, trumpets, horns, and saxes over there. The rest of you, spread out over there. We have a couple tuners, so make sure everyone in your section is tuned, and then pass them on. Let’s go, because we’re on the field in ten minutes.” Dennis took the horns to the far side of the room. “Aw, Dennis, it‘s your last competition ever, that‘s so sad.” Kyle was poking fun at the section leader. “I am sorry you feel that way, Kyle.” Dennis was not a very emotional person, in fact his heart was as cold as ice and glazed over in iron ore. “Everyone play your F. Bass clarinets, play whatever note it is that you tune to.” The group held out the note until Dennis cut if off, then one by one he went down the line tuning them individually. “A little sharp, a bit flat, way sharp, pull out.” By and by, they were all tuned. Grouped together in the back of the locker room, Jessie came over. “Guys ready? Guys ready?” “Yeah, but Dennis is getting a little emotional.” Kyle continued. “Aw, Dennis. Group hug everybody. I’m so proud of you.” The section swarmed Dennis in a hug, despite his numerous threats not to. “Guys, come on, we didn’t do anything yet. As section leader, I order you to stop this.” They paid little attention to his demands. “Come on guys, seriously, we didn’t do anything yet, and the job isn’t over.” Eventually the section spaced apart. The other sections were finishing getting tuned.
“Alright, lets circle up.” Mr. Garner called all the sections over. “You guys have a minute to do what it is you want to do, because we have to be on the field in two minutes.” He spoke to the drum majors. Jackie spoke. “Guys, I just want to say how proud I am of all of you. We, as a band have come so far, and now we’re here about to go out there and play all that we’ve worked on for the past several months. What you guys need to know right now though, is don’t hold back. You guys have what it takes, and I know that, and you know that, so right now, when we go out there I want you to give it everything you have, and don’t hold back.” Jessie spoke. “Yeah guys, when we go out there, you can’t hold anything back. You have to give it everything that you have, because Jackie’s right, we all know that we all have what it takes to do this, but in order to we need one hundred percent from everyone. When you go out there you need to just leave it all on the field. Every emotion, every strength, everything that you have. When we go on that field, you guys need to pour out your hearts, so that when we leave that field there is nothing left. So that you and everyone else knows that you gave all that you had to give. Ok?” “Ok?” Mr. Garner was ready to go. One last round of cheering and clapping, and they were headed out of the locker room. A poster hung on the far wall, Chance is not a play, a basketball rolled in place above the text. Ethan thought about the poster for a minute, and then about the lucky nineteen eighty two quarter in his pants pocket that had correctly forecasted their above seventy score way back at the first competition. He felt for the coin quickly, and then the doors opened and it was time to go.

Filing out of the locker room, the band entered a whole new world that all along lay just on the other side of the bricked wall. The Dome was massive beyond compare. It had to be at least one hundred feet to the top. The three or four floors of seats must have numbered in the more substantial thousands. Mr. Garner had said there would be about five thousand people there, but now the people present filled not even a tenth of the wrap around stadium. Dozens of massive lights hung from the ceiling, and the field seemed extra large and dream like. The horns and base clarinets made their way around to where they were supposed to enter the field, while the rest of the band went to their off field positions. Ethan had known that the arena was going to be mind blowing, because he had been there the year before, and had had his brain dazzled by it. Despite knowing what had been in store, the transition from the tiny locker room to the suppressing dome was still mind boggling. He did his best to stay focused on the task at hand. Setting up at the proper line, everyone waited for the command to move out. It was given. Miles, who was playing in the pit was their “ticket collector” as they entered the “movie theater” for their Night at the Movies. Ethan walked in to the movie with Olivia, and then once I the cinema they branched off to their starting positions, facing backfield. Alex Wood on the back podium gave them four, and then they began making music. The Jurassic Park Fantasy warm up rang through the dome, as the set people lined the props up in the middle of the field. Standing there playing, Ethan couldn’t believe that they were there right then. How could this be it already? They were at band camp, they were at the first competition, back at homecoming, they had just boarded the busses on that dark and drizzly morning, so how could they now be here, in this dome, playing this music for the last time? Before he knew it the warm up was over and the announcer was reading their introduction over the loud speaker. “Ladies and gentlemen, from Kingston, The Kingston High School Tiger Band. Drum major, Jacqueline Garner, is your band ready?” A pause, and then a cheer arose from the crowd. “Kingston, you may now take the field in championship competition. The bands “Cinema announcer introduced the show to the audience. One, two three four, they were off with the Twentieth Century Fox theme song. It segued directly into E.T. The horns moved in their line. Approaching the front line, Ethan could feel his lips searching for the notes, it didn’t feel natural. It was like running a race from a cold start without warming up. He made sure he was in step, and forced the notes to come. It was choppy, and unnatural; it felt very different from the previous day, from the previous hour. There was a judge inspecting their line about a dozen feet in front of them. Great. He could see the judge commenting in their direction, but he couldn’t see Jackie. He had to see Jackie. The horns parked right at the front line for four counts as they did their horn dip and then turned and marched backfield. The drill brought them back to the front line again before taking them backfield toward the rest of the band. Ethan was no longer looking for the judge.
They parked near the front hash and then the band dipped down to the right, they built back up with the crescendo. They dipped to the left, again a crescendo. Dipping forward, one more crescendo. Turn to the front. Faith to his right, Olivia to his left, they were really playing it as the melodies filled the dome. The horns formed their line and held it through the high mark time. They reached their part in the music and split in to a “V.” They were passing through the other lines and climaxing in the piece. They made it to their final position, and held out the final note. It was powerful. They cut off the note, and the drums did a rim shot. Snap. Ethan snapped his horn down. His eyes squeezed shut immediately as he stood frozen. Maybe it was, the echo of the rim shot off the top of the dome, he couldn’t recall hearing it before, maybe it was something else, but whatever the case, he had done it. He had snapped his horn down three whole beats before the rest of the band, and in those three beets, he felt like the most conspicuous thing in the whole entire dome. There was no getting over that, or hiding it. He had no choice, but to shake it off and move on. He could hear Mr. Avossa saying that a mistake is only a mistake if somebody notices. There was no way that no one had noticed it, but Ethan had to move on. The in the freeform transition into Indiana Jones, Ethan specifically made sure that he was extra enthusiastic. He had to, there was no question that the audience was going to see everything he did now. He had to put the first song from his mind and get in the zone of the rest of the show. “Indiana Jones.” The announcer was done and they were about to go. The horns belted out the first melody, and Ethan got it. They marched across the field, past the fifty, and then held with a horn pop. It was right. They backed up through Marians Theme, and then came the visual that they had added the night that they had left the school. After yesterday, Ethan wasn’t going to mess this one up. Jump, around, two, three, four, jump through the drum break. It was just like they had done at Skytop. The horn line spiraled in as the main melody came around. They were backing into a straight line as the final measures came up.
The final measures came, and Indiana Jones flowed directly into a planned confusion of dinosaur like squeals on various instruments as everyone saw in amazement a land like no other in which reptiles flew above the field. The chaos on the field gave birth to the bold sound of the horns in the opening two measures of the Jurassic Park theme song. All around the field every section was in pods, except for the horns, who formed a solid block. They backed up into another “V” and then began marching across the field, their melody ripped through. Jurassic Park was a quick piece, Ethan’s favorite, but a quick piece. The Imperial March went by even quicker as Cory punched out his solo. Margaret on the tuba, and then Kevin on the trumpet joined him as the corners of the world came together. The band free formed like jedis beneath the trio as they made it to their final spots for the final piece. “It’s Star Wars! Episode one, the Phantom Menace.” They nailed their first attack, the second one, and then they were off. From here on out the music flew. They were marching across the far back of the field, for a moment they were in a block, then it instantly dissolved into a line. It was the fastest part of the show, and their melody came. Na, na, naaa, na, Na, na, na, na, naaa. Na, na, naaa, na, Na, na, na, na, naaa. Over and over until they got to the visual they had worked on at Skytop. Right, two, Left two, and back up. They quickly backed up and then switched forward. Ethan managed to stay in step during the direction change. All around, other sections were flying by, some going the opposite way, others going the same direction, but at different speeds. Another visual, horns up, two, down, two. They came around the last bend and climaxed with a loud attack. Horns down instantly. The horns came down together. The stands roared. As soon as it had begun, it was over. Somewhat out of breath, the band morphed into two long lines as the exited the field. Now it was a race to get off the field before time points were deducted. The band made it to the side with the cadence of one of the snares.
Once clear of the field lines, they pooled on the side of the field. There the hosts had set up a line for each section where they were to line up and wait to take a band picture. “Did you see Mr. Avossa?” Shannon was talking to a clarinet player. “He like jumped up and started cheering at the end.” As he waited, Ethan couldn’t help but feel the disaster of the first piece. Forget being shaky in the beginning, he had dropped his horn a whole three beats early. The photographer began calling up and positioning sections one at a time, eventually he got to the melophones. There had been no line labeled horns, only melophones. The two bass clarinets, four melophones, and five horns were positioned behind the flutes and clarinets. As the photographer continued with the rest of the sections they could see the next band taking the field; it was Greece. He took two photos. Ethan made sure that Alex and the freshmen all had their bells lined of the same way. The band filed out after the first two pictures, but the seniors stayed for a third and fourth.
Mr. Garner, who had come around from the front of the extraordinarily large stadium was hurrying the band up the steps and into the hallway of the stadium. “I’ll tell you guys something, that was amazing. You guys played that show, and we couldn’t have asked for it to have been any better. That’s how you march a show. You guys did it.” There was cheering in the hallway, as Mr. Garner told them what to do next. “The busses are out this door here,” he pointed to a near by exit, and down the walkway a little. Go, now, and put your instruments in their cases and on the bus. Then come back here, through this entrance, we will be sitting in section F5, right over there. Go get your food, and do what you need to do, but I want everyone back over there watching the rest of the bands.” The band filed out the doors and down to the busses.
Leaving the dome, Ethan couldn’t help but to feel a strong poison of mixed feelings with in him. He had never missed that horn visual before, never, but now, when it had mattered the most, he had fluked. The thought of it gnawed at his stomach hard. Mr. Garner, however, had just said that the band had done an excellent job though, clearly he hadn’t been watching the horns in the first piece. There was no way that a judge couldn’t have caught that. And then another thought occurred to him, if Mr. Garner and Mr. Avossa, hadn’t seen that, then what else had they missed that the judges hadn’t. If he had messed up in that one solid spot, then how many other people had messed up their solid spots, let alone their weak ones. The thoughts were overwhelming. He could see the judge with the recorder staring at him on the field twelve feet away as he struggled to force the notes. It branded his mind. He could feel the tears running down his face, but he couldn’t stop them. Wiping them away to hide from the band, his eyes betrayed him, as Katie wrapped him in a hug, unaware of their true nature. “Wait here.” Katie ran back to one of the busses, as Ethan put his horn away. He grabbed his own camera from the bus. When Katie wasn’t back in what seemed like two or three minutes, Ethan headed back to the dome alone and misty eyed. Walking back, with no one to directly see his face, he didn’t bother to wipe away the tears, instead he passed a member of colorguard melting in the arms of one of the band moms. The mom standing next to them saw the tears in his own eyes, and offered him a hug too, which he did not turn down. He wiped his face as he headed back into the building.
Inside, he found a seat in the section of the stands where the band was sitting. Some band was performing on the field. There was a cluster of band people sitting in the rows ahead of him. Margaret and Renae came and claimed seats next to him. The two of them left their jackets and then went to go get some food. Several people asked him if he had wanted to join them, but he wasn’t hungry, not now. He simply sat in the stands, not having much of any desire to be social. He watched the other band, and felt tired, but he did not sleep. Margaret and Renae came back with sodas and slices of pizza. It was cold in the Carrier Dome. A clock and thermometer reader on the other side of the stadium read that it was forty eight degrees. Wow, Ethan couldn’t believe it. Sarah sat behind him, and he swiveled around to her. “Hey, Sarah, remember I said it was going to be forty nine degrees?” She did. He pointed across the arena to the thermometer. “Forty eight. Not bad right?” Ethan was proud of his thoughtless prediction. After that he began to open up a bit more and respond to the people around him, though he never fully left his solitude.
The hour passed by fairly quickly considering everything. Ethan eventually brought a soda and a bag of blue and pink cotton candy. The urinals in the facility were the weirdest ones in the world, instead of individual units it was like going in one long bucket that ran around all sides of the room. Mr. Shaut watched the rest of the bands from the bleachers across from the aisle. The other bands were pretty good, in some of the better ones their perfection with their feet was even impressive. Eating it with Margaret and Renae, Margaret’s mother came over and put a fuzzy pair of fuzzy ear things one her head. They were orange and fuzzy, like a moth’s antennas. “Gee, mom, thanks?” Mrs. Lindeman had brought them for her. After he mom left, Margaret fooled around with the orange ear things for a while, before deciding to get up and sneakily put them on Mr. Shaut. He was wearing a light cream colored hat, and didn’t realize what was going on atop his head at first. Eventually, as Margaret tried to sneak away without him knowing, he sensed someone above him, but it still took a comb of his hand to detect the antenna. Taking them off his head and inspecting them, he smiled and chuckled. Margaret begged him to put them back on for at least one picture. Mr. Shaut wasn’t the typical guy to dress goofy and then pose for a picture, but, because it was Margaret, he made this one exception, and Ethan snapped three quick photos. He handed them back to Margaret, and she thanked him before returning. Renae and Margaret got up and left to walk around again, so Ethan moved a little closer to the rest of the band. Jackie and Ralphie sat in front of him, Cherokee sat behind him making jokes about the other bands with Melida. Auburn was the final band in their division. To the horror of the band, Auburn played nearly the same exact show as they had. E.T., and Star Wars, they were the same. They couldn’t believe it. The only difference was that they had swapped the order and made E.T. their finale, while Star Wars was just a fly by. There was plenty of dissatisfaction from the band in the stands, besides Kingston had done a much better job with the music, even if the other school had more catchy visuals. Cherokee and Melida had fun with the criminal band. Three guest bands performed, but were not judged.
Eventually, all of the bands had played and the judges had tallied all of the scores. Mr. Garner had the band get their jackets and their hats back on and then sit in the bleachers. The announcer asked that all the bands come down to the field as they were about to announce the scores. This was what they had all been waiting for. This was when they would finally get to hit the crunch button on the season’s calculator and would see what the past four months had added up to. This is why there were there. Ethan reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the nineteen eighty two coin. He thought for a minute about whether or not he wanted to play peek-a-boo with fate. Flipping the coin, it landed tails up. It was just a quarter and he slipped it back into his pocket and followed the band down the stairs. On the field they line up in rows eight across on the turf. East Ramapo lined up next to them. The people doing the announcing thanked a bunch of people, and then made a couple of comments about the whole competition. They then thanked all of the bands present, and basically said that there are no losers in marching band. Finally, they called the drum majors forward as they prepared to announce the scores. This is what everyone was waiting for.
All of the nine band were lined up across the field. Their hearts were racing as the suspense monuted and their heats raced. "In large school three division, in ninth place, with a score of seventy four point two five, East Ramapo." It was an instant relief for Kingston, though as thw whole Stadium cheered, East Ramapo did not. The cheers subsided, and there was a pause. The silence was deafening. Ethan could feel his heart pounding though out his chest and stomach. The bands all held their breath. "In eight place, with a score of seventy six point one five, Hichsville High School." It was scary now as they let out a sigh of relief. They had beaten two bands, there were seven places left. The announcer paused for an extended period of time after the applause subsided. It was hard to breathe. The announcer was waiting extra long on purpose. He enjoyed the pain that the silence bought as it stabbed every individual in the chest. "In seventh place with a score of seventy seven point two five, Kingston High School." What? What did he say? Instantly the pain of the silent daggers melted, it all melted, a molten mixture destine to spew through their eyes. How could they have done that? There was cheering, but it was distant, it had no relation to them, the applause was meant for another band. They were seventh. It hurt, and hurt badly. The rest of the scores didn't matter, none of them mattered now. In the line on the field, musicians hung their heads in dismay. It just couldn't be. The look on Mr. Garner's face wasn't thrilled either. He pased back and forth, before Lauren grabbed him by the elbow, and twrned his attention to the middle of the band. "Don't turn around." People behind were telling the others up front to stay facing forward. Eventually a small discrete emergency managment team came across the field on a stretcher. It was Cherokee, they were wheeling him out with Mr. Garner following. Ethan wasn't sure what was going on. The award ceremony ended.
Feeling heavy with disappointment and frustration the band headed up the steps of the stadium, and back to the busses. The band moms clapped and congratulated them as they made their way out of the stadium, they would always clap and congratulate, no matter what, but still there was joy on the faces of the ones who had played. Somehow or another, Ethan and a group of about seven colorguard and a pit person wound up getting separated from the rest of the band, along with two band moms, as they left. For over five minutes they searched outside, but not knowing the campus, they were unable to find a trace of the two hundred piece band or the five busses. Eventually, they came across a security person who directed them to where the busses had moved to. They got back to the busses, but apparently before the rest of the band, because the busses were empty. With in moments, however, the lengthy band appeared over the top of a small rounded hill that lay between the busses and the stadium. As the long line of band kids walked down the path the setting sun gave half of their individual persons a glow like an army roman soldier.
Back on the bus, Margaret took the window seat again. There was a flurry of conversation as both the current state of Cherokee and Mr. Avossa were discussed. Apparently, Mr. Avossa had gotten pretty upset about the official results of the competition and had gone to speak to the judges personally. Rumor even had it that he had cursed at them, and though it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Mr. Avossa that upset, it seemed a bit extreme to go that far on unconfirmed speculation. As for Cherokee, they weren’t really sure what had happened to him. Some kids said that he had blood on his uniform, other’s joked that hearing the score made him pass out. While all this was going on the busses had to wait, and so there was an extended delay in their departure. Margaret called her dad to tell him how it had went. Finally, one of the band moms laid all the rumors to rest announcing that Mr. Avossa had gone to speak to the judges, but they wouldn’t speak to him individually. Cherokee had been taken to a local hospital, where he was going to be ok. Mr. Roth and one other band parent stayed with him, and they would probably drive back later on. “Wow,” Margaret commented, “this trip has been so fatal. First David Terner left sick, then Chelsea has an asthma attack, now Cherokee passed out.” Ethan hadn’t realized that David had gone home sick. Apparently the freshmen wasn’t feeling well the day before, and his parents took him home.
It was dark when the busses finally left the campus. They left the campus, they left Syracuse. Traveling home on the Throughway, the ride was quiet. The moon was just as full as it had been on the last day of band camp. A movie played on the bus televisions. It was about this guy who falls off the Brooklyn bridge and then ends up in the eighteen hundreds. The bridge was a portal, and his great grand father comes in to the twenty first century, and he has to find a way to get him back before he is erased from history. Margaret had seen part of it once before, but never all the way though. In the busses the televisions were the only source of light, and so it illuminated the fronts of everyone’s faces. There was disappointment, out everyone that Ethan could see, Sarah looked the most upset. She had wanted to win at Syracuse, she had wanted to score higher than they ever had, they all did. They were heartbroken. The disappointment is clear on the faces, but yet there are few tears. We had nothing to lose. We had everything to win. We are on our way home. We have more than we arrived with, whether we know it or not.
They had come so far since band camp, so far since the first competition and football game, and from homecoming. They had come so far from that Friday night, and now, just like that, it was over. It was funny to think that just like that, in a matter of seconds, or a phrase, that four or five months of a life could just be over. To think that, that was it, that now they would just be moving along in the flow of time to their next destination. Sitting there beside Margaret, with her head dozing off against the window and the sole source of light coming from the television, Ethan couldn’t help but to think back a year to their Mohonasson competition. Amongst all of the competitions, that one stood out clearly in his mind. It had been the first competition that he had marched in.

The theme of the competition was unity. As the band stood along the fence watching the other bands it was cold- most of out band was actually talking amongst themselves not watching, but Dennis, Andrew Wise, and the people around us were. Margaret was also in the group watching with us. As we watched I could see the amazement in her eyes as the really good bands like Arlington and East Ramapo performed. They were all in perfect stepand knew exactly what they were doing. By that point Mr. Avossa had come over. And Margaret was talking to him. She reminded me of a little kid who finds a frog or salamander as they search by a pond. Her eyes were just glowing and she was so energetic about the other bands’ ability even though you could tell she was tired from everything that day. Hyperly asking Mr. Avossa about why we can’t do those “awesome moves” with our nice tubas- we don’t have nice tubas. And how it was insane that those bands could march that well. Mr. Avossa told us that it wasn’t any more difficult than anything we were doing. He said it was just in their minds and in their hearts. That they played with confidence and when they made a mistake they made it with confidence. How they came to band cap already knowing they’re music and had rehearsals four times a week and the equivalent of our freshmen marching rehearsals through out the summer with the whole band. I could see it on Mr. Avossa’s face that he wanted our band to feel the same way about it all as the other bands did. As Mr. Avossa walked away listening to the judges comments about the show Margaret asked him with that same little kid enthusiasm if she could listen too. He said to her “yes, but only you.” One of the other people asked if they could come too, but Mr. Avossa said “no, just Margaret.” I wanted to come too, but I knew that it meant way more to her than it did to me.

November 24, 2009

It has been three weeks since we returned from Syracuse. Life has now returned to normal and the intensity of Syracuse has subsided. Katie was actually in school today, that’s a treat. She’s been out for nearly two weeks for various reasons. Thanksgiving break begins tomorrow, so we didn’t do much in math class today. Mr. Franklin bought in his Play Station and he and some of the students spent the first ten minutes of the class trying to figure out how to hook it up. His mom teaches just down the hall from him, Mrs. Franklin. At the start of class she came in to fetch two of her students who had been trying to help get the game hooked up. When they whined to stay a little while longer Mr. Franklin backed them up, saying that he’d write them a pass, but Mrs. Franklin wouldn’t have any of it. I could easily imagine the same scene having taken place about twenty years earlier in his own bedroom. After multiple attempts they finally got the thing hooked up.
I’ve never been one to play video games, and had no interest in the ones they had selected. That being said, I asked for a pass to the library. Obviously having no intentions of teaching, Mr. Franklin gladly signed it and wished me a good Thanksgiving. In the hall I thought about going to the library as I had intended to use the computer, but I didn’t. I, too, thought about stopping at the studio and using the computers in there, but today I wasn’t in the mood for either. It was the day before Thanksgiving break, and neither place was where I wanted to be. Instead I headed down to the band room. The vast majority of my friends have at least one open class period where they go down to the band room and just hang out and have fun. I’ve seen some of Kyle’s videos on you tube, and every time they make me wish that I hadn’t traded in my lunch for an extra class. I figured that by going down three I could just relax a bit or watch the freshmen’s rehearsal. Besides, I had to ask Mr. Garner about lessons, since I couldn’t get out of any of my other classes to come down. I found him in his office along with Mazie, Ashna, and Cherokee. “Hey,” I directed it towards Ashna. “Mr. Franklin is sure upset that you didn’t show up today.” I informed her jokingly, but she was too consumed in some other class’ homework to take notice. Cherokee was blowing half musical noted out of his flute in front of Mr. Garner’s desk. After the third broken note Mr. Garner took the flute and proceeded to address the problem. Mr. Shaut poked his head through the door, having temporarily stopped conducting the freshmen band. “Do you want to read them the letter?” The question was directed to Mr. Garner, still tinkering with the flute. “Sure, hold on a sec. What can I do for you?” The latter part was directed to me. “Um, I can’t get out of any of my classes to come to a lesson today.” “Just come when we get back from break then.” I had intended on asking him if I were to practice some band music now if it could count for lesson credit, but decided that his response was generous enough seeing that it wouldn’t be my lesson day when we got back, an was satisfied. Him having given Cherokee back the flute, I left the office and we both found practice rooms. The door did little to contain the sound of the newly fixed flute. I went to the storage room, which from time to time doubles as a practice room, and grabbed my horn and music. For the next twenty five minutes or so I ran through selected portions of concert band music. It had been a while since I had practiced in a practice room.
The day progressed as slowly as any other day before a holiday break does, yet somehow I found myself standing in the same practice/storage room for the start of band, the last period of the day. The room was crowded now as the rest of the band got their instruments and then tried to find their seats in the disorganized room. The first few minutes of band are always chaos with people running back and forth, people playing and talking. It took a good seven minutes before the class actually began and Mr. Shaut was able to gain the majority of the attention in the room. We played the same warm up that we always play. Olivia came in a few minutes late, she had been in the other bandroom. As I continued with the warm up she wrote on my paper that brass choir had been cut due to the budget. “Really?” I asked her when we finished. She nodded. “That sucks.” Although I had missed the first two rehearsals I had been planning on joining brass choir this very weekend and had been trying to figure out when the next rehearsal was. Sitting there, I couldn’t help but think that, had we actually won at Syracuse, that the school would still have let it get cut. The football team can get new uniforms, the school can get security cameras, the cafeteria caan get a “necessary” renovation, but the band can’t go play Christmas songs at hursing homes? It amazes me how we can literally march with duck tape tubas, flutes and trumpets held together with rubber bands, and yet some how the music departments always find themselves at the short end of the stick. Them and the art departments, but hey, I just play the music.
“We have a couple of announcements before we begin.” Mr. Shaut drew me back.”First off, when we come back from the break it will be November thirtieth. Our concert is on the fourteenth, that is two weeks.” A ripple of somewhat muffled laughs echoed from those in the band who still had yet to master their music, as others acted as if they were hearing this news for the first time. “Also, citrus orders should be in. The last day for that is today, so if it’s not in, then oops.” A brief pause. “Does anyone know the Stanwycks? The Stanwycks from Camilles, New York? It’s just outside of Syracuse.” That answered the question of Camilles , but still no one claimed the family. “That’s what I thought. Mr. Garner and I got this letter this morning and it is addressed to the both of us from the Stanwyck family.” He held up an envelope torn open at the top. “Listen while I read it. Dear Gentlemen:” a laugh arose at the word gentlemen. “That’s what it says.” Mr. Shaut clarified it with a smile. My family (all thirty two of them)” an amazed buzz arose, “//and I recently attended the 2009 NYSFBC Championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. This has been an annual family gathering for us for the past twenty five years. We have watched each of our five children, countless nieces and nephews, godchildren and neighbors and are currently watching our grandchildren compete. We all consider ourselves ‘amateur experts’ when it comes to judging. //

I am writing today to thank you for the wonderful performance that you band put on this year. We have followed Kingston the past four years, mainly because of the size of the band. It’s impressive to see that many young people dedicate themselves to music. You must have a strong program at your school and you should be commended for that.
When your band takes the field, we know that there would be ample sound based on the number of musicians. Far more impressive is the fact that such a large band could also sound like a corp a quarter of their size and still have the same full and vibrant sound. This is a direct result of the talent of your students and the many hours of hard work they must put in. watching one hundred and ninety people move about on the field with precision and accuracy is striking.
The Kingston High School Tiger Band’s color guard we without a doubt the best with in their division and amongst the top in the entire competition. Not a single flag or rifle was dropped and what a beautiful thing it is to see all these flags move as one. The level of difficulty in their routine and the grace and speed in which they executed it made it both interesting and a delight to watch. The ending sequence was without a doubt one of the most exciting and impressive in the entire competition!
As we always know, judging is a subjective thing, and because of that not always the most accurate. We offer this small measure of encouragement to you, your staff, and most importantly your students. Kingston High School Tiger Band was certainly a crowd pleaser and we are looking forward to seeing you again at next year’s competition.
Yours in music, the Stanwyck family”

The bottom of the letter was dressed with seven different “Stanwyck and family”s, all in seven different hands. Mr. Shaut looked up from the letter as a tide of claps and cheers arose from the smiling faces. “Did they really write all that?” Someone asked. “Yup, and it’s signed by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven different people too.” He read off the names. “This is why I asked if anyone knew the Stanwycks first. But this is what Mr. Garner and I have been trying to tell you guys. It’s a competition. Life is going to be a competition. You’re going to be competing for jobs, for houses, for money, the music that we’re playing and everything about the field shoe or anything in life is about making it trough the competition. There are people watching you who are not going to say ‘oh, this band’s first because they’re perfect, and that band’s fifth because they messed up.’ Well, they might, but when they watch you they’re listening to how you sound, and it’s not a matter of just going out to compete, but it’s a matter of going out and playing the music that you know how to play, because every time, it’s like I’ve said before, every time you play is a performance. Even if you’re the only person listening, it is still a performance. Now if these people are listening closely enough , and feel so… inspired as to go and write a letter like this, then you have to imagine that there are a lot of others out there who at least feel the same way. And all of you know how you did, so good job I guess.” A second surge of clapping and ear to ear smiles filled the discombobulating of a band room. “Alright, alright, now let’s see how well you can play this music.
That was is. That was the closure that the season had waited for. We had started the year off strong, and ended even stronger. We had fought our way to the top and had fought out way to places we had never been. We had marched with everything we had, and though the scores said that it wasn’t enough, we know that someday it will be enough. Next year, in the beginning of the autumn, the Kingston High School Tiger Band will return to Syracuse as a marching band once again. Next year there will be no bias against us, there will be no preconceived notions holding us back. We will not let them. We will have no room for vast expanses of the past. We will train harder, and practice longer. Not only will we know every note by heart, but we will live every note as if it were our last. I remember when Jessie told us all to leave our hearts on the field. To leave them there along with everything that we had. After what I have seen and been apart of for the past four months, I know that the heart of this band did not ride back on those busses with us that night, but it is instead lying there on that field protected by that massive dome. One might say that we left it there on accident, forgotten it when the announcer ripped it out of out chest as he called our band, but those who have held it, those who have been a part of it and lived off of it, they know that it was left there on purpose. A premeditated thought that only grew in significance. We left it there on that field as a note to the world that the Kingston High School Tiger Marching Band is coming back for what is their own, to show the crowds that they are ready, to show the world that they are ready, that they are through playing games. To tell the world that the Kingston High School Tiger Marching Band is ready to take the field in championship competition, so they had best be ready.

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