By Katie Naber
Ten years ago a middle school band director loaned twin sisters Katrina and Christina Naber a saxophone and clarinet because they could not afford to rent instruments. That act of kindness changed the course of their lives. Both are now freshmen attending college on full four year scholarships. The following is an essay Katie wrote while in high school
The door of the airlock slowly lifts and the thick green AstroTurf becomes visible. The roar of thousands of people clapping for the band on the field sends ripples of chills throughout our band. The echoes of the music being played on the field reach us moments after it has been played. Lifting our eyes we can see the huge screens displaying the band marching and playing and the color guard performing on the field; but we never watch. We stand in perfect blue lines, not a trace of movement or a sign of emotion is visible as we individually run a flawless show through our minds, knowing nothing less than excellence can or will be performed. A powerful and solid step is placed while the most beautiful and expressive note played; only perfection is acceptable at this level. He walks down the rows – the man known to some as unemotional and difficult to please – and a tiny tear falls slowly from behind his glasses. He shakes a senior’s hand, thanks them, and looks for another while the band behind him plays on.
The music in the stadium stops as the thunder of thousands clapping once again fills the stadium.
“In life, how many chances do you get?”
Although few people hear our response to our band director’s question outside of the airlock, it is the answer to what drives every single one of us in performance, and perhaps life. Those who do not listen for the strong emotion in our one syllable word over the roar of the crowd will never understand the meaning of Lake Park Marching Band. Some people think we bring highly paid staff in from around the world when in fact our alumni are drilling us on the field. We hear rumors of thousands of dollars spent on color guard costumes and flags while in reality “Mamma G” sits home at her sewing machine creating magic. We hear stories of hundreds of hours we spend practicing as we sit in our bedrooms studying…. knowing that if we don’t make the grades we won’t be permitted to perform, no matter how important our part. We dream of the indoor stadium we will never have as we unsuccessfully attempt to warm our frozen fingers in our pockets and pick icicles off our horns. Still, we remain focused. We take every season, every contest, every practice, and every set one precise step at a time, knowing every moment is fleeting. Each practice is a performance and each performance is exactly as practice. One loose moment in a rehearsal means that chance to practice was lost. One loose moment in a prelims performance and there is no second chance. First impressions only come once, as do final impressions and all those in between.
We step on to the field and march to the warm up block, not looking at the crowd or the bare green turf, but at the hat in front of us, realizing success is as much that person’s responsibility as our own. One person missing from a practice or performance holds back the entire band. Marching band is a team activity with no alternates; each person has an important role. If one person is missing one less blue dot is completing the picture, one less chord is balancing the sound. We round the corner and line up on the fifty-yard line using the feet of the people on either side to place our dot.
“Ready, halt!” His hands close and with it so do our feet. Again, not a person moves as the crowd rustles behind us. The horns flick up to a precise angle as his hands pop up. The music pours out of every instrument to form a choral we have made famous.
The horns snap down as the performers make the needed adjustments for fine-tuning. “Mark time mark!” The snare drum crisply taps out the beat as we turn and march towards the crowd. Some seniors blink out the clouds in their eyes as they realize this truly is their last chance, while the freshmen quickly glance up in wonder at the captivated audience clapping and rising to their feet.
“Ready, halt!” And the snare drum taps out its last beat. We are again motionless as the judges move on to the field with tape recorders and enormous expectations. Our chins are held high and instruments are tensed in our hands.
“Lake Park Marching Band, you may take the field in Nationals Finals Performance.” The majors’ hands begin to move, and it is over. No one remembers when it started, if the audience clapped for the soloist, or even the steps they took and the music they played; but it lasted ten minutes.
“Mark time mark!” As we march off the field we know we have performed our best. It is visible in the members blurry eyes and the crowd’s standing ovation. Whether or not we take home the first place title and a trophy does not determine the outcome of the competition. We know that we have given our last chance the entirety of our physical and mental abilities. We have performed our perfect show.
You only get one chance. It’s a concept most freshmen barely understand and a concept few seniors fail to learn. Each moment counts. Never again can you relive an experience exactly as it once was. You only get one chance to make it perfect.
“While in high school not only did my daughters belong to marching band,” says Katrina and Christina’s mother Michele Naber, “they also joined winterguard, worked part time at the airport to pay for flying lessons (both are private pilots), and did volunteer work. Christina graduated with seven scholarships. Katrina had a nomination to the Air Force Academy from Congressman Henry Hyde. I truly believe that their participation in Marching Band helped make my daughters the success that they are.”