The Grove City High School Marching Band from Grove City, Ohio has quite a legacy. We’ve had directors including James Swearingen and the current George Edge. The Ohio Music Education Association has held state-wide marching band finals since 1970, and every year the Grove City Band has attended, we have received Superior ratings. We don’t settle for second best, and rarely are we awarded second best, but at one competition in particular last year, we were pleased as punch with our placement; At the Fiesta Bowl National Marching Band Championships in Phoenix, Arizona.
On any given normal year, the marching season closes around the end of October, and we transition into the phenomenal concert season. Last year, however, we stuck with marching band through all of November and December, suffering through some harsh snow and ice storms, brutal winds, and extremely low temperatures while preparing ourselves to compete with the big dogs. Our band met in the band room at around 3:00 AM December 28th to depart for the airport; all 250 of us, as well as directors, chaperones, and family members. I had never been on an airplane before so I was extremely nervous. Once we were all boarded, the majority of us crashed after not sleeping for nearly 24 hours. The plane ride was fairly smooth from what I recall; however there was one moment in particular of that plane ride that I will never forget. I woke up for a matter of minutes and had a strange urge to look out the window. At that moment, we were starting to fly over the Grand Canyon. I had never been much further west than Chicago, but I was in complete awe at what I was looking at and couldn’t wait to see what else Arizona had to offer. Then I returned to unconsciousness for the remainder of the ride to cowboy country.
When we arrived in Phoenix, all of us were exhausted beyond belief, and not at all looking forward to a four hour marching band rehearsal, but we knew that if we wanted to make finals later in the week, we had to put our best efforts forward. When the gruesomely hot practice had been completed and the band members were all sweaty and sticky, we loaded back on the busses to clean up back at the five-star hotel, and prepare for an evening of fun and activities. Throughout the week there were many fun events that occurred. I remember going to several restaurants during our stay, and I had decided that I wanted to stay away from the hamburgers and French fries which I can order anywhere in Ohio, and try some new things. I ended up eating things such as buffalo, fried rattle-snake, and cactus fries which were all surprisingly delicious. We shopped in downtown Scottsdale and Sedona, where I bought some souvenirs including key chains, tee-shirts, and a small cactus which I still have to this day. We went to Box Canyon to ride horses, ride in horse and buggies, and do some rock climbing before having a cookout and singing campfire songs with some real cowboys. We visited the town of Rawhide and had a dance after riding a mechanical bull. We did so many neat and different things, but there were a few experiences that stood out in my mind from that trip.
The third day we were there, we drove to Sedona, and took jeep tours through the Red Rocks. I have never seen something so beautiful. I can’t describe the astonishment I felt that day; I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scenery, and the pictures I took that day will never do it justice. I felt almost inferior to nature, because the rocks, mountains, and trees were so big and gorgeous naturally, and the water was so clear and sparkling, that I didn’t want to ever go back home, to flat country Ohio. Man could never create something so beautiful. The closest feeling I had to that was when we took a train to the Grand Canyon and stood overlooking this wondrous masterpiece created by Mother Nature. I again felt inferior but wouldn’t trade the experience of going to Arizona for anything. If I could go back someday and only do one or two things, I would make seeing the Red Rocks and the Grand Canyon those one or two things, without a doubt.
Another feeling that will stick with me occurred on the morning of the competition. We were all excited and nervous on the bus ride there, but as soon as the University of Phoenix Stadium came into view, there was complete and udder silence on every bus. After we had warmed up and gotten ready to perform we marched down the ramp into the stadium and when we squeezed through the gates all we could do was look around in amazement at the sea of parents and fans watching and screaming for us, and listen to the echo of the stadium. Awards that afternoon determined the finals participants, and after they had called off the bands in order from lowest to highest scores up to the top three we figured that we hadn’t scored well enough to perform again. We were alright with that though. We had performed our absolute best show ever and had an amazing opportunity coming here.
The judges called off second place overall at that point as the Grove City Band and we were in shock. Never in our wildest dreams had we imagined doing so well. After the evening performance, we placed second overall, but barely. We only lost by .70 of a point. We placed first in a few subcategories and the band we beat out was so rude and disrespectful to us that we realized how much pride we should take in our program. Between our score and taking every single category in the New Year’s Parade Competition under our wing, we were very proud of ourselves. Competing with those quality bands was an extremely humbling experience. Even if we were to lose a normal competition, we would never disrespect the other band. We would be upset with ourselves for not performing well enough. Those bands were ridiculous with hissing at us and saying inappropriate things and throwing things, that even though we hadn’t technically won, we looked down upon them. They were nothing compared to our family that most would simply call a band.
The whole experience of going to Arizona taught me many things. I became more humble after comparing our program with the other bands there, and the amount of respect and maturity we have toward each other as well as others. Our band program teaches discipline, and I gained more self-discipline while there because I was responsible for not only myself, but for the representation of Grove City, Ohio, and the Grove City Band. I had to be in total control at all times, but still manage to have fun. I got the opportunity to travel far beyond I ever have before, try things totally foreign to me, and see things I never could’ve imagined seeing. I fought fears, felt adrenaline rushes, and took pride in the experience as a whole. If I could go back and take the trip one more time, I wouldn’t change one second of it.
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