Scene: Band festival circa 2005.
For those of you unfamiliar, many (middle/high) school bands attend what is dubbed band festivals in which concert bands and orchestras from neighboring towns congregate in an agreed upon location and have a competition. It’s not so much an ‘I’m a winner, you’re a loser’ kind of competition though, so I’m not sure why they call it such.
The stages each band has to participate in are as followed:
- watch at least one other band perform a set (which includes a march, a something, and a something else [I can’t remember and Google is not being helpful])
- perform a set (play our pre-rehearsed set for a panel of judges)
- sight reading session (the band has 2 minutes to read through music for the first time, practice it/analyze it how ever, without instruments being used, and then play it for a panel of judges)
The scores ranged from poor, good, very good, excellent, to superior, and since we were the ‘new band on the block’ (new to this particular competition), we felt the need to make an impression. We were a great band with an outstanding band director, so we knew our chances at achieving a superior were pretty good.
When we first arrived, we warmed up in the choir room, then headed straight to the sight reading room. I’m not sure what other bands did to practice/analyze the piece before playing it, but we became a band of beat boxers. The more melodious sections hummed their music, the percussionist TIC’d, BANG’d, BOOM’d their music, the bass section BUM’d their music, and the brass section… who knows what the brass section did… they were the brass section; they were all a bunch of weirdos!
We got through the sight reading piece and made our way to the stage.
Part of our performance score was presentation. This was based on how we looked (uniform uniformity), our overall posture while on stage, and how we entered and exited the stage.
Our school did not provide band uniforms. Instead, they gave us black bow ties and cummerbunds to wear with our black slacks, white button down shirts and black shoes. But I had to gothify my uniform in some fashion, so I wore my platformed 5″ high heals (I’m pretty sure they were stripper heals, to be honest, but I was short enough that my pants covered them up, making it look like I was on stilts). I was a sight to behold.
We were all lined up so that when we entered from the side of the stage, everyone would file into the spot they were supposed to be seated. The same with exiting; the first person on the stage would be the first person off the stage with everyone else following suit.
I was the last person followed by the band director.
While we were waiting to enter the stage, the band director and I got to joking around, swapping scenarios of what could go wrong during the performance resulting in a bad score. You know… things like a trumpet player squeaking, the tuba being horribly out of tune… He even suggested one of the percussionist knocking over the chimes during instrument change.
The band started taking the stage and just as I was crossing the curtain, my director said, “Break a leg.”
We took our positions, waited for el maestro, and away we went. We played our little hearts out with as much passion and determination any middle school band could. After our performance, we felt like we were on cloud nine (or we were all light headed from all the blowing). We did a damn good job! There was no way we were getting anything less than a superior.
The ‘line leader’ then began to lead the rest of the band out to the auditorium to the viewing section for us to watch the followup band’s set before heading out.
I followed the person in front of me, cautiously sneaking through the chairs and stands and made my way to the front of the stage, meeting the band director by the podium. We were in the home stretch. The stairs were a couple yards away, and everyone had already exited. We were for sure getting a superior.
Then it happened.
One of the clarinet players had dropped a reed case as they were leaving and instead of holding up the line to pick it up, they left it, unbeknownst to me…
The combination of hardwood floors, a plastic reed case, and 5″ platformed stipper shoes with a clumsy fashionista as the propellant made for a very slippery situation.
One second, I’m glowing internally from a near perfect performance as I glide off the stage in a dreamlike state. The next, my legs are bending in a way similar to that of a newborn deer’s. I tried in vain to catch my balance, but failed miserably. One ankle buckled and the other shot straight into the air. Next thing I knew, I was on my back center stage with my band director hovering over me exclaiming, “You weren’t supposed to actually break your leg.”
He helped me up and off the stage while my peers were all trying (and failing) to hide the fact that they were all laughing. You see, I’ve always been a walking hazard. Grace by definition, for me is:
… and I’ve come to terms with it.
It wasn’t until I sat down and made sure I didn’t actually injure myself that the thought first occurred to me: I could have cost the band our superior rating.
I started thinking of ways I could correct the inevitable bad score. I would write a personal letter to each judge telling them that my band did not deserve to be punished over my clumsiness. I would ask my director to tell the judges that I was a saboteur, ensuring that they couldn’t find fault in the performance if the graceless biped that wiped out afterwards wasn’t even part of the group.
To my shock and amazement (and everyone else’s, I’m sure), we pulled through and received superior ratings for our performance and sight reading. We even continued on to receive the title Blue Ribbon School after our choir competed the following weekend and received the same scores!