So Jazz Night is an event that my school’s jazz band practices for all year, a showcase for all the songs we’ve worked on and might not have had a chance to play anywhere else. We rent out a restaurant, set up in the main room, and basically just play every song we know for hours for everyone there. It’s always a nice time and all, and I was having a good time as the night went on, but it was nothing revolutionary or anything… and then when got to Lil Darlin, the song where I play the hugely important trumpet solo. I’ve been hugely busy lately with tests and all sorts of unpleasant things, and so I’ve barely had any time to practice; I also hadn’t played Lil Darlin in a while, especially not from memory, because there was a point where we practiced it so often that I took for granted how well I knew it and accidentally let myself get rusty.

Well, my solo was coming up and I decided I would just look at my music (even though that usually messes me up when I’m playing something I’ve memorized), because there are a few parts with tricky valve combinations and I didn’t want to screw them up. I usually stand in front of the band to play my solo, but our arrangement was so cramped that I figured there would be no way for me to even get out there in the first place, so I thought it would work out fine.

I was getting pretty excited… until a few measures before the solo, my director set up a microphone in front of the band and beckoned me to it. Now, there wasn’t exactly any way that I could explain to him what I had been planning right in the middle of the tune so I took a deep breath, made my way to the front, started the solo off strong… and COMPLETELY BOTCHED the second half. I missed one note in a series of triplets and things just got UGLY from there— I was panicking, but it seemed like everything I played just came out worse and worse. Even though my sound had been great, it was like every last fingering had suddenly escaped from my mind and I was utterly, completely drawing a blank in a horrifying way that I had never experienced before. I managed to survive until the last note, but I was mortified. I literally hobbled back to my stand in shame, trying to avoid direct eye contact with anyone. As soon as the song ended, there was a break in the program— which I used to find my mom in the audience and complain to her. It made me feel a little better when my friend’s dad happened to hear my anguish and told me that I had started off amazingly and that sure, I had missed a few notes at the end, but it really wasn’t the end of the world and besides, it was a really long, difficult solo and making a mistake on that was just kind of like finishing second in a marathon, still something to be hugely proud of, and I really sounded great otherwise, and that did cheer me up a little because that guy was my soccer coach one year so I am well aware that he is BRUTALLY honest (plus his family is really really really into jazz music, so he knew what he was talking about— unlike my mom and sister who, while sweet in telling me that they didn’t even realize I’d done anything wrong, weren’t exactly reassuring)…

I was pretty dejected, but after hearing that encouragement, I figured I’d at least be able to survive the rest of the night; and my favorite song of all was coming up, in which I had a series of mini solos that I hoped I would be able to use to redeem myself just a little bit. That song came and it was fine but nothing electric like I was hoping, so I sort of just started praying for the night to end soon so I could go home and sulk. Unlike last year, where we randomly pulled out a music book and spontaneously tacked on about ten extra pieces, plus a whole host of encores, after we’d exhausted our reserves, this night was zipping by, and soon we had finished all of our pieces.

The director started on his little end-of-the-night speech… then paused and said “You know what, we’re going to play one more tune for you. Hit it, guys, let’s do Lil Darlin again.”

Hearing him say that… a thrill ran through my entire body. HE WAS GIVING ME A SECOND CHANCE! And I swore to myself that I would be better this time. I had to be. I would do whatever it took to make myself sound perfect and erase any doubts lingering from my last performance.

The solo came up again— and this time I stayed back by my stand— and I crushed it. I hit every note, my sound didn’t much waver, and even though it was the end of the night, my chops were still strong… it was awesome. Sounding good was cool, but more importantly, I was honestly so proud of myself for rebounding from my failure, and so eternally grateful to have even had the opportunity to do so…

I ran up to the director immediately after the song had finished (to a roaring applause :D) and literally screamed my thanks at him for letting us redo that tune. He smiled and said “No, it wasn’t bad the first time! This is jazz music— it’s not about playing everything exactly how it is on the page! Sometimes you just have to change things up, you still sounded awesome!” He explained that he wanted to replay that song in particular because, since we’d played it near the beginning, it would be an appropriate bookend to finish off the night, and the crowd liked the vibe, and he thought it was cool how that piece had grown from being something we’d just used as a warmup to one of our band’s best… but no matter what he says, I believe in my heart that he did it for me, to give me a second chance, and I just think that was just the kindest thing ever. Even after the first failure, he still had faith in me, still put his trust in me, and I rose to the occasion and didn’t let him down… I just left there feeling so, so happy and accomplished and amazing (especially because, after the second time, when fellow band members and audience members alike complimented my solo, I actually felt confident enough to accept it) and it was just really cool. <3

other notable things of the night included the amusing scenario where i had a solo in a song and my friend who, because of kind of a long story, was playing my trumpet music on the clarinet, accidentally played it with me and spent the next two hours apologizing profusely once she realized her mistake and the fact that when the director called out the names of everyone in the jazz band he included a trumpet player who had quit after a month without telling anyone but didn’t include the trumpet player who had attended every practice and played no less than three solos and was actually there

My theory of knowledge teacher was absent today (OR MAYBE SHE JUST GAVE UP ON OUR CLASS BECAUSE THAT’S DEFINITELY A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY TOO— EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CLASS HAS, ANYWAY) so after waiting through ten minutes and a fire drill for her to show up, I decided to make an excuse to go to the band room and deliver a form. When I got there though, since I didn’t actually have a class to return to and basically no work to do (well, no work that I was in the PROPER MINDSET TO DO, anyway) I quickly informed the assistant director “I think I’m gonna crash today if that’s alright” and figured I would actually just stay in band and pretend like I was supposed to be there!

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Trumpet: You’re cute
Flute: I don’t know you, but I’d like to
Clarinet: I’d date you
Saxophone: You’re hot!
Oboe: You seem funny
Piccolo: I like your style
French Horn: I love your blog
Trombone: I’d have sex with you
Tuba: I don’t like you
Snare Drum: I want to be friends!
Tenors: I don’t know how I feel towards you
Bass Drums: You haven’t noticed me
Marimba: I think you’re _______.
Gong: All of the above!

At the end of every year our band director Dr. Pasqua holds a pool party/barbecue for all the year’s seniors at his house. Considering he retired last year, we figured the tradition was over… but apparently he liked our grade so much that he wanted to do one last barbecue just for us! Awww~

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Recently I texted a friend of mine about a movie we wanted to see together— somehow “Once Upon A Dream” became our anthem for our entire band trip and we vowed to see Maleficent together because of it, so I was pretty disappointed when we both ended up going away for the summer before we could. When I told her I wish we could have seen it together, she sent me back the sweetest message about how she can’t wait for me to visit her at band camp and told me about how she was looking back at all of our billion pictures we took during the trip and bawling her eyes out because we had so much fun and she misses all the memories so much and it kind of just made me think that I can’t let myself look back on old pictures much because I’d totally fall apart a hundred times worse and I’m just so sentimental and I just love band so much and I have so many good memories and am so sad about having to move on and I guess there’s not really a point to this post but just AHHHHHHH THE EMOTIONS

My band holds this competition called a march-off on the last day of band camp every year, a Simon Says-like contest where the whole band assembles in a block and the drum major starts calling out marching commands; anyone who messes up or doesn’t react fast enough is out, and it keeps going until only one person is left, the winner.

March-offs get pretty competitive at my school— although there are vaguely promised prizes, like CDs and free pizza pies, the bragging rights are the most important thing. So everyone tends to get really excited about them!

My freshman year, my brother and I were the last two freshmen left. Although there were quite a few upperclassmen still remaining we still considered this a fairly big accomplishment, and were really excited. We were especially excited to be going up against each other; we’ve always had some sibling rivalry going on. I was fiercely determined to both beat my brother and be the ultimate winner. And things were looking good! As the commands kept being called out, people kept getting out… until finally my brother screwed up on a gate turn and I didn’t!

I was thrilled, ecstatic! I had beaten him at something, finally! I was on top of the world, it was amazing— I jumped up in the air and pumped my fists, letting out a cry of jubilation. The drum major looked at me with the saddest eyes and said “… Jenna… I know you’re celebrating beating your brother, but… I didn’t call halt yet. You’re still supposed to be marching. That means you’re out too.”

I got OUT, because I paused in the middle of the competition to do a victory dance. That remains one of the most disappointing moments of my entire marching band career.

Years ago, when she finished her last AP test, my sophomore friend Serena skipped into the band room full of wild glee, slapping extra unused AP exam labels onto every surface she could find in a gesture of defiant triumph. She plastered one onto my trumpet case and, when I realized that it’d be impossible to peel off neatly, I decided just to leave it there.

Fast forward and now Serena’s a sophomore again— in college. And AP label is still on my trumpet case. The last time I took my instrument to be repaired the man at the shop stared at me with the utmost of confusion, then stared at the label, and whined, bewildered, “What is this number for? Is your instrument registered somewhere?”

I felt kind of like a weirdo explaining what the sticker was actually for but it amuses me so much that all these years down the line, I don’t think it’s ever coming off. :)

One of my absolute favorite marching band stories ever is how, waiting for the bus after school one day, I stumbled upon my friend Richard (a mediocre trumpet player) slumped on the floor with his head down, looking beat up and dejected.

Immediately, concerned, I asked him “What’s wrong?”

"I’m going to quit band," he sighed. He explained to me that he had three older sisters, all of whom were trumpet prodigies and who forced him to follow in their footsteps, but he also played lacrosse and football and was taking several really hard AP classes at the time and was so perpetually stressed by the burden of extracurriculars that he had earned himself the nickname "Sick Tired Sad". Although he didn’t mind band, he was by no means passionate about it, and he was so crummy that he only ever pretended to play anyway, plus he had a widely-known reputation as the worst marcher in the school. Furthermore, he was a "popular" kid and was really starting to be affected by the intense pressure of his friends relentlessly mocking him for being a "band geek" every time he headed to practice or entered the school’s music wing.

After delivering this passionate speech about every reason why band was absolutely not for him he stood up with firm resolve, determination blazing in his eyes again.

"I’m going to quit band!" he announced proudly once more. "I’m going to do it right now! I’m going to march right into the director’s office and tell him I’m done and I’ll finally be free!"

He ran away with renewed excitement, practically skipping. I laughed and cheered him on, secretly thinking about how much of a pushover he was and seriously doubting that his argument with the stubborn-as-a-mule and very intimidating director would be that easy.

Forty minutes later he trudged back to the spot, head held low, dragging his feet across the floor pathetically, wearing the same Sick Tired Sad expression as usual. He was also lugging along, not just his trumpet in one hand, but a humongous euphonium case in the other.

He looked me dead in the eye and just whispered, like a broken man, “I didn’t quit band.”

Instead the director had convinced him to just start learning another instrument. And he had accepted it. Two years later and he’s still in band, still dreading it, and still being forced to learn even more instruments.

My brother is officially the biggest band geek on the planet. After playing this song so much in class and for parades, he (a boy whose music taste can accurately be described as “nostalgic baby-makin’ R ‘n B hits from the early 90s/scratchy banjo-laden Hicksville folk rock/anything sung by Ja Rule”) literally went and downloaded a sweeping operatic cover of Danny Boy onto his iPod. He now blasts it during every single car ride we ever take, being incredibly careful to sing along with his exact mellophone notes and harmonies. It terrifies his passengers every time and honestly even I’m a little freaked out by it…

So apparently our high school band is trying to be a lot more official this year, because for the first time ever they had an official pre-band camp meeting, where they distributed packets of information, important dates to keep in mind, and—gasp!— the actual music for the band members to play!

I was idly flipping through my little sister’s packet while eating breakfast the other day and one particular bulletin caught my eye: “Pay attention to your section leaders, who will often cook up special themed days to shake things up a little, encouraging their sections to dress in matching colors, accessories, or hats.”


(Also noteworthy: a section of the packet containing the sentence “When one goose gets shot, two of its friends will flank it and stay with it until it dies”. With absolutely no context… enjoy that gem ;P)