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 squawking.

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 band kids.

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 beyond.

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.

Mr. 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.

When 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.

We’ve 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!