I played trumpet in marching band all through high school save my senior year, where I was drum major. I played trumpet in symphonic all four years as well, French horn my junior and senior year, trumpet in jazz junior and senior year, 10th chair District in trumpet my senior year, and skipped out of French class 47 out of 90 days in my senior year to go hang out in jazz instead (someone else in the class kept track).
Was I a music dork? No. I was their KING.
I won’t go as far as to say “Music saved my life” or anything corny like that, but music was my passion all through school and kept me out of trouble. No one cares about family drama here, myself included, but I was able to ignore most of it and focus on being in every band that let me play a trumpet in high school. I got about as far as natural talent could take me, which wasn’t very far, and got everywhere else through sheer grit and determination.
Music also gave me an attitude. When I started marching band, I was a mousy stick who was intimidated by anyone remotely near me. Derrick, the head of the trumpet section, took me aside one day.
“Now, if you’re going to play trumpet in the marching band, you have to have a trumpet player’s personality. You don’t right now, so I’m going to help you. See all those people out there marching?”
“None of them are as good as we are. Not even close. Trumpets are the best instrument in music, and we’re the best players in music. Never be afraid to let anyone know that.”
“But that’s not all. Do you know why we’re the best?”
“Because we WORK DAMN HARD AT IT. Saturday all of you guys are coming over for about five hours, and we’re going to learn the music and I’m going to help you be a better trumpet player. Now go own the field!”
Thanks to Derrick I went from a scared and timid freshman to a raging asshole sophomore. Then I found a happy medium to spend my junior and senior year as a fairly typical confident teenager.
I also learned how important it was to actually work at something. When I started in band my freshman year, I was absolutely awful. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was hardly our best trumpet player, but I was a solid third out of twenty or so. Our director told me that I probably made the most dramatic improvement anyone had during high school as long as he’d been teaching, and that was all because I never stopped working. It also justified my cockiness, so that may have been a bad thing to tell me.
Making drum major was essentially a foregone conclusion; everyone knew I was going to make it, the only question was who would be the secondary drum major. I’m just glad we were able to convince the director that the drum majors should wear tuxedo vests instead of those horrible blocky uniforms. You can’t get respect from your band if you don’t look good, and we looked good. We looked damn good.
While marching band gave me my attitude, jazz band gave me my love of music. While I was a good trumpet player, I was never the best one in the room thanks to having two freaking prodigies ahead of me at all times, but I learned a ton from both of them. We learned some music theory, the mathematics of soloing, and a ton of other things that I’m sure by now I’ve forgotten. The main thing I took away from jazz was the complete ruining of other types of music for me - I can’t stand replaceable pop music now.
Band was the best thing to happen to me in high school, and I still love watching marching bands.