The cold bites you through your uniform; you vow never to be so stupid and cold again.
The leaves fall thick and fast, orange, red, and dead brown. Bare skeleton branches hold up a blue November sky, and the football team loses for the final time.
The band performs one last time, competes for one last audience. It’s a sacred day, the day of the last performance. The show blossoms in full color, then dies. The crowd surges to their numbing feet, and you are smiling; for the moment you are not such an icicle that you can’t feel alive. Afterwards, you regret nothing about this day because there is nothing more you can do to reinvent what has past.
For the seniors, for the ones who cannot do it all over again, this is your last. It does end. You do go to the other side, where you no longer follow the orders of a loon on a scaffold. You don’t get to go back.
You’ve been in band for a ridiculous length of time.
You did band because it was an outlet. Because the rest of the world didn’t make sense and all you really wanted to do was play until you were too tired to be angry anymore.
You did band because you love to perform, love to make a difference in the lives of those you love and those you may never know.
You did band because so many people in your life came from band. Here, you didn’t need to ask permission to love or be loved. Because even when no one mentions it, no one ever forgets that they belong to an entity so powerful, so unified that companionship is easy and blind and deep. There will always be people here who care for you more than you think you deserve, people with whom you’ll laugh with til you cry every day of your life.
I look at all of the seniors that I know, whether or not we know each other well, whether or not we currently march together, whether or not we have marched together in the past, and I see so many stories, entwined like straws in an underwater basket weaving class. Whether you’ll be graduating from college or high school band, I sense that your time has come. You’re reluctant to leave, but so ready to go on.
I wish that you find everything you found in band in the rest of your life. Yes, even if to compensate for the absence of band, you feel it necessary to steal a uniform and go frolicking into town, jamming on the sousaphone and waking up all of the peasants. That’s perfectly acceptable, and legal.
Don’t hesitate to find an outlet, if you need it. Find a meaningful way to live when the world plants it big ugly butt on your sorry little head. Leave time for things that raise you up so you can survive the things that drag you down.
Never stop performing. There are opportunities all around you to continue to be musical. Community bands lie quaint and rusting unless they gain new bodies. Jam sessions sparkle with new blood. You are so important to preserving the art of performance because you know what it feels like to be a hero, to bring meaning to so many dull, grey lives. The performing arts die away because so many people assume that they have nothing more to offer, that once they grow up, it is time to stop performing, to fade away. But giving up what you love, that is a certain death within itself.
You’ll graduate, you’ll move away, and while you leave those who matter behind, your life still stretches far ahead of you, a long unfathomable vortex. Within the vortex, you’ll find new people to make you laugh, new people that you can trust with your right arm and to take care of your purple speckled cat who meows upside down. You’ll have to find them. When the slice of the world you land in isn’t as accepting, as open to caring as your band families have been, it isn’t your fault. But it doesn’t mean you can’t be as friendly as you’ve been taught. You CAN invest in the new community you become a part of. You can find the family you are looking for if you are willing to take a chance. And maybe your willingness to take that chance is what changes the people you meet forever.
And the people you’ve grown with over the past 2 years? 4 years? 8 years? However long you’ve been in an organization like this? When you leave, we don’t fade away. We will always love you, and we will keep in touch with you. Don’t forget your memories of us, of each other, because they’ll be part of you forever. Think of all the special moments as little snippets of time and emotion that you slip into bottles and cast to the ocean of your mind, where they wash up when you’re alone and need them most. Never forget that you always deserve to be happy.
UDMB seniors, make Saturday the best day of your life. You deserve the immortal blue stadium sky and the glittering heat of the stadium lights. You’ve given so much of yourselves to this organization. We are all so proud of you.
High school seniors: I hope your last performance/competition without a high school diploma was as meaningful and epic as you could ever have imagined. However the scores turned out, however the rain fell, however Sandy warped your last few weeks, let it go, and never let it tarnish how you feel about what you have done with yourself for the last 4 years. And don’t forget to do band in college 🙂