First Parade Competition

Posted by Tom Tucker on

Below is a delightful band director story written by Robert Storms.  Mr Storms is a composer and many of his works are available on PDF Band Music.  His background includes many years of teaching music in the western Washington area of the United States.

Enjoy "First Parade Competition"

In my first year of teaching, my band, the Cle Elum High School Marching Band was invited to march in the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade. After asking the students about their interest in participating in the event, it was clear that the response was overwhelmingly positive and I submitted our entry form for the band adjudication.
Because I was a first year teacher, my students were always telling me how it was the year before. The band didn’t march in any parades at all throughout the year. In short, they were very supportive of the idea and our month of marching preparation went smoothly. We were all excited about this new venture for the band.
Parade Day came, and our band members were lined up for the parade and waiting for the starting instructions. As we stood, dressed in the school colors of Cle Elum High School, I was aware that something was going on that was unsettling to the students. A band student ran up to me and announced that I should come quick as there was a car driving through the middle of the
band bumping the band members out of line. I was in disbelief but followed the student to the back of the band, where indeed, a car with two young men was ever-so-slowly moving forward through the band. The students were reluctant to move (break ranks) and the car simply pushed them out of the way!
When I saw the car nudge two students aside I took charge! “Hold it right there!” I shouted as I approached the vehicle. The students immediately broke ranks and crowded around the car awaiting the conflict that seemed sure to happen.
The driver rolled down his window and tried to explain his actions. He was simply going home. The two men lived in the dorm at the end of the street and were going to get there on this street and refused to take another route. The parade made no difference to the driver - nor did the sign behind his car stating “No traffic ......” He started forward and the students in front of his car quickly jumped out of the way. My response to this was to yell, “Stop!”
His response to me was, “Who is going to stop me?” “Get out of the car and leave it here until the parade moves out, its almost starting time.” He continued to move forward until I said angrily, “Get out of your car!” He did. My students and I watched as a college man, who appeared to be
six feet eight got out and
faced me. He was standing behind his car door and I was on the other side of it, gasping for air at his size. The students groaned “Whoa…………!" as he stood there. It was a comedy act. This super tall dude (think Goliath here) with an attitude, looked down at a short guy in a white director’s uniform.
In his best bass voice the student said, “Are you going to stop me?”
The kids all laughed. I didn’t. After a short time of reflection on the matter I yelled, “Cle Elum Football Players come forward!” The college student asked, “You seriously want me to beat up your football team?” 
The answer to his question was “No.” I pointed to the front of the intruding car and said to
the football team,“Grab the front lift!” Everyone was surprised when the front of the car rose off the ground. “Now, push!”
The car went backwards forcing Goliath back into his now-retreating car. The boys ran the car for a ways out onto the adjacent ball field and left it there. The band cheered as they came back to the parade line-up. We had won that battle without a fight and the heroes of the story were the members of the high school football team. Fair enough, I certainly couldn’t have done it alone. They had indeed, saved the day. I helped.
When the parade was over, we went to the college football stadium where our band was to march in and play the national anthem before a sizable college crowd and then, receive our marching award. We had won the first place trophy! The kids were joyous. I was in disbelief but also very happy.
At the stadium, our band was instructed to muster on the sidelines facing the fifty yard line and to wait for the announcer to call us out onto the field. When the band was finally in place and set in sharp lines from the front to the back ranks, the stadium speakers introduced the band and called it to enter the field. The crowd cheered. The band didn’t move. The crowd kept cheering.
The Drum Major had left his whistle on the bus and didn’t know how to start, stop, or play the band without his whistle. The announcer tried again but still, the band didn’t move. Everyone could see the poor Drum Major running around in the band with his gold-wrapped scepter with its shiny bulbous end, doing ....something.
In the stands, I was having a fit!
“Why won’t he start the band?” I wondered.
After a third plea from the announcer the band suddenly came to life with their cadence and marched out onto the football field. The Star Spangled Banner never sounded so good to my ears; I was beginning to think I would never hear it that day.
Following the national anthem the band stood and awaited their marching trophy. The announcer was very gracious and gave the band high praise for its marching acumen. “So, now we are pleased to present you with the First Place Trophy in the high school marching competition. As the Cle Elum High School Marching Band was the only high school band in the parade this year we hope that you will join us again next year to defend your win.”
We received a mixture of applause and laughter after the announcement. Our band students were shocked after finding out that they had no competition. I suspected it because I didn’t see any other schools there. I theorized that it was a long parade and surely the hometown band,
Ellensburg High School would be there.
In the weeks that followed marching season there was little talk about “defending our win”. The following year, not a single student asked about going to Ellensburg to march in the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade, so it wasn’t scheduled.
“Okay, we quit while we were winners, what’s wrong with that?” I thought, “Nothing……and I won’t need to face Goliath again, either.”

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