Yesterday in my mind’s eye, I saw a group of kids. They were about 14 years old and it was the summer before their first year of high school. They were standing in a band room nervous and curious. They were waiting for something that they thought would give them an avenue to new friends and involvement in a school activity. Many of them knew they would never make a sports team and they weren’t cheerleader material. Some of them were overweight. Some of them struggled with popularity, because they were shy or different. They made good grades and many were considered geeks. Many of them were bullied in middle school. They stood in this band room as an incoming class of freshmen holding their flute and trumpet cases. Some of them were holding a flag pole for the first time in their entire lives wondering what this “thing” was and some for the first time were about to hit a drum with a pair of sticks. On this special day, their lives were about to change because on this day, they would start their very first marching band practice. On this day, they would start a journey that would lead them down a path where they would meet the people they would spend countless hours with, as well as share their laughter and their tears. On this day they would begin to live a life many can only dream of and this journey will be called…community
Community. It’s the gift I wish I could give every child in the world. We are lacking it. We are a world of people fighting our personal apathy and turning a blind eye to a world that is bleeding. We are a world finding reasons to fight and reasons to turn away from our fellow man. Those kids who are starting their first day of practice are about to learn how to save the world although they don’t know it. They are about to learn about passion and learn about community. Marching band is going to give them all of this and it’s going to change their lives forever.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe that pageantry can change the world. I’m an idealist. I always have been. I’m the person that everyone loves to hate because I really do want to do what the old Coke commercial says and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I believe in pageantry. I believe in what it teaches kids and the number of kids we can reach in any given school year is more than any other activity. In many schools, the band reaches more kids than all the other activities combined. More than anything though, I believe in the passion that is generated in a person as they go through the course of a season. The skills they learn are lifelong skills and the people they meet will stay with them forever.
Pageantry ignites a fire in a person. If only for a brief moment in time, it makes a child believe in themselves and the community that supports them. It’s a microcosm of the perfect world. In a perfect world, in Shelba’s perfect world, community takes precedence over the individual. In my community the adults look out for kids that aren’t even their own. The kids have a safe place to “hang out” while getting an education and learning new life skills. The adults in this community are educated and with this education they pass their wisdom on to the youth they mentor. Youth are seen as a participant in this community and not a victim of it. The youth are given responsibilities and held to a standard of those responsibilities. They aren’t abused and they aren’t coddled. The effort of the individual is meant to support the larger group and not to support one’s own ego or self congratulatory personality.
In the microcosm of pageantry, the adults and the youth are one. The failures, the negativity, and the egotistical actions of one has drastic impact on the whole. The counter to that is the successes, the positivity, and the charitable actions of one can change the whole for the good and forever. It’s people discovering teamwork and hard work. It’s children learning that giving up on the group is NOT AN OPTION.
In our community called pageantry, the kids are learning about responsibility. They are learning how to take care of others. They are planning and creating. Their imagination’s are on fire! They are learning to win with grace and lose with a desire to keep pushing forward. Emotions are shared freely and hugs are given often. Adults admit that they have much to learn and the youth are there to teach them. Patience is practiced often and lessons are learned when that patience is given away without thought. In this community; parents, teachers, and children all play a role in the support of the bigger picture and respect for all is the cornerstone to success. In this world kids learn to take care of their environment and “leave things better than they found it.” They learn to be punctual with a simple phrase, “Early is on time and on time is late.” They will get fresh air and exercise. Someone will care if they go home at night and will work to make sure they keep up with their studies. This community is growing the children of tomorrow and everyone is playing a part.
Diversity is the driving force of this community. Everyone is accepted.
Gay? No problem.
Woman? Leaders rise from both sexes.
Black? Really? We don’t see color.
Disabled? We’ll find a place for you.
Don’t speak english? Music and dance are the language we speak.
Deaf? Blind? Yep. Join us. You will teach us how to listen to music in new dimensions.
Young? This activity was made for you.
Old? We need your wisdom.
This is a world where acceptance is not just practiced, but expected.
This world of pageantry is the world John Lennon spoke about. It’s about people living for the day and living life in peace. When these kids leave their pageantry experience they have learned so much more than music. They have learned what “community” should look like and act like. It is a group of people working toward one goal, struggling together day to day and not leaving anyone behind. To me, there is no question as to why so many of us have stuck around for so long. Many of us have stated that we would rather be on the field or in the gym isolated from the real world, because our world of pageantry is where our souls feel most at home. It’s safe and it’s the community that we long to see.
Kids all over the country will enter this world of pageantry for the first time in the next few weeks. The doors of life are about to open. Let’s make sure to support them and teach them well. Let’s reach out to our community and teach those who don’t know what it is all about so they see more than just a halftime show. Let us seek to support the families who can’t afford the opportunity to participate. Let’s strive to educate. We can do more than win band contests. We can change the world.
As we start a new marching band season I encourage all of you reading this to give back to your community. Sponsor a kid. Pay their dues or a partial amount of their dues. Buy the local marching band a set of flags. Buy some drum sticks. Offer to pay for one sabre or the repair fees on one instrument. If nothing else, go to a show and cheer. Buy concessions. Support the kids and support their passion. A donation that is specific in nature lets the music program you are donating to know how important your gift is and allows the kids to see how your kind gift was used for them. Let’s give back to them everything that was given to us and re-vision our community.