I pretty much plowed through high school paying little attention to
anything except what I was focused on. I know this is shocking coming
from a teenager. However, I still hold a special place in my heart for
band. Yes, I was a band geek and given the opportunity, I would probably
be one now, too.
My sister played in the band and I can remember
her bringing her instrument home and practicing and at the time, I
wanted to do everything my sister did. I’m sure she was thrilled most of
the time. So when the clarinet came home with me in the fifth grade, I
don’t think anyone was surprised. Well, maybe the dog. There was quite a
bit of howling and ducking for cover until I stopped squeaking and
I love music of all kinds and I really enjoyed learning
to play my humble wind instrument. There was quite a feeling of
accomplishment when I could play my scales and that first simple song
correctly. A few sighs of relief were also heard I’m sure and the dog
emerged from under the couch.
Throughout middle school, I honed my
talents on the woodwind and enjoyed the accolades after concerts. Then
came eighth-grade year and on Memorial Day, we marched with the high
school band in the parade, as was tradition. My classmates and I thought
we were the shizzle. We had hit the big time hanging out with the older
Once I got to high school and marching band started, I
had to lay aside my clarinet and pick up a brass instrument. One of my
BFFs played the trombone so the trombone it was. Don’t tell Mr.
(Michael) Wark, but I never learned to read the music for my new brass
instrument; I just penciled in the positions.
And then I fell in
love! Marching band was awesome. Playing on the stage at the middle
school was awesome but this was something bigger - something better -
something amazing. We represented our school on the football field and
In 1979, the Jefferson Marching Band was all brass. We
were “loud and proud” and kicked butt and took names. People knew when
they faced us in competition they better bring their “A” game because we
were good - really good. Many of the trophies that line the back of the
band room at the high school were won with a little help from me.
Wark was the driving force behind it all. His philosophy was to never
accept mediocre and get everyone up to their full potential. Sometimes
he was the only one who saw the potential at the beginning. He had a
knack for getting out of us more than we even knew we had.
you were in Mr. Wark’s band, you were “his.” We all knew there would be
no bullying, no backbiting, no singling someone out for ridicule. He
told us if we couldn’t depend on each other, we couldn’t depend on
anyone and we embraced and defended each other fiercely - in band and
out. We were Mr. Wark's kids.
In Monday’s story of the send off of
our beloved musical and life mentor, Heather Osting said it best: “He
was a drill sergeant and a teddy bear all at the same time. You wanted
to hug him but you were a little scared. He’s the reason it was cool to
be in band.”
At the beginning of the march from the high school to
the Warks’ home last Saturday, I felt like I never left the “Best Damn
Band in the Land.” When the attention whistle blew, the years, all 31 of
them, melted away. The cadence began and we might as well have been
marching to the stadium to present our half time show and support the
mighty Wildcat football team.
I slipped out of the lines and
sneaked to the Warks' home so I could take a picture of the “band”
arriving. As they got closer to the Warks' street, the cadence went to
the rhythmic click of drum sticks on rims and when they turned the
corner, BAM! The cadence picked up and “Oooh, Angowa, Got that Wildcat
Power!” bounced off neighboring homes as they neared the Warks'. It gave
me chills. You know when you have been part of something special.
all moved on with a few band alumni choosing a musical career. Most
chose other fields but still remember being Mr. Wark’s kids, the “Best
Damn Band in the Land” and all it entailed.
Once a band geek, always a band geek!