Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How I Wasted Half My Life

By the end of this year, I will have wasted 11 years of my life on band.  

That's half of my life!  And, ok.  Maybe "waste" isn't the right word, but it seemed to fit with how much time band took from me.  But let me explain.  Now, I'm not one to post sentimental things online (especially about band -- can you say 'Nerd Alert?'), but this was on my heart and I just had to get it out, out, OUT!  Why did I spend 11 years of my life on band?  Not because I love playing the trumpet, and not because I got to take cool trips, and not because I got paid for it all throughout college.  But because band is awesome.  That's why.  Indulge me for the following blog post:

August 2003. Southaven, MS. 

It was the first day of my middle school career, and I sat on an old wooden bench in a gym full of wide-eyed, fresh-out-of-elementary-school students just like me. I knew very little of my peers, and to be honest, I was nervous as all get out. Where's my sister? I wondered. She's the only person I really knew.
As I was having my lonely-11-year-old-girl freak out session, a man marched into the gym. He looked like he owned the place, and he motioned to one of the P.E. instructors that he wanted to make an announcement. “If you want to join band, follow me” was the gist of what was probably a long spiel about how music can change your life. But all I heard was, “Your sister is sure as heck not in this room, so she is most likely wherever I just came from.” I stood up, walked down the stairs, and fell into the mass of others who chose to follow the man. 

Fast forward to November 2013.

 I'm standing in a full maroon and white band uniform in a bathroom at the Texas A&M stadium. About 80,000 fans erupt in cheers outside, and I feel thunder in my chest as a cannon fires to let all of Texas know that A&M just scored. I came here with 100+ other Mississippi State University students – just a small sample of the Famous Maroon Band.
As I'm washing my hands, the woman next to me looks at my uniform and asks me a question. “What instrument do you play?”
I turn to her, knowing that right now I am the face of my university. So I smile. “I play the trumpet.”
“Oh, really? How long have you been playing?” she asks.
“11 years,” I tell her.  Wow. I chuckle, because that sounds so ridiculous. The woman looks surprised-- I'm not sure she expected that number. I'm not sure I expected that number!
“And this is my last year,” I tell her. My last year. I have said that fact to many people during recent weeks, but for some reason it becomes real for the first time in that moment . . . washing my hands beside an Aggie.

Sixth Grade Me did not imagine that following the man out of the gym would bring me to Houston, Texas during my senior year in college! 

 What? How did that happen? I remember being told by the man – Mr. Andy Sanders – that band class was like no other class in school. “Look around,” he said. “If you choose to stick with this, you will spend 7 years with the people in this room. You will make lifelong friendships out of this activity.” And he was right! I spent the next 3 years of middle school and 4 years of high school with many of the people sitting in that crowded band room. And a handful of those people even came to college with me! What does that add up to? 

3 (Middle School) + 4 (High School) + 4 (College) = 11 years of creating relationships, deepening relationships, and creating more relationships. 


Most of my best friends today came from that nervous girl's decision to follow the man. And let me tell you how. For years and years, I saw those same students every single school day. We learned how to make music together; we learned how to march together; we learned how to be a team. We practiced for hours in the hot summer heat together, and travelled on long bus rides together. In high school, we celebrated two state championships together. In college, we experienced NCAA bowl games together. I grew up with these people!

And now that era is coming to an end. On Thursday night I played my last concert with the MSU Wind Ensemble, which is probably the best ensemble I will ever have the privilege to play in. And at 6 am this morning I stepped off the charter bus to complete my last trip with the Famous Maroon Band (assuming we aren't going to a bowl game this season).  At the end of this year, I'm going to graduate.  Then what?  I'll be done with eleven years of band, THAT'S what! I won't see those friends every day, and I won't make anymore music with them. I won't spend weeks with them learning halftime shows or spend hours with them on a cramped bus, traveling to support our football team. And let's be honest, I probably won't be seeing much of the instrument I've spent 11 years playing, either.

While this is all bitter for me, I have enjoyed every minute of my time in band.  I know that the friendships I've built won't go away any time soon, but like I said -- it's the end of an era.  That's just sad.  I have so much gratitude in my heart for this amazing extracurricular activity.  I'm not sure there's anything like it in the world!  

So to you parents out there: 

If your child wants to join band one day, I strongly encourage you to let them! They'll learn discipline and determination, they'll build lifelong quality friendships, and they may even get some college paid for, too! Take it from someone who is going on 11 years of amazing experiences.  Band is awesome!

Photo Evidence to follow . . .  

The majority of people in these photos are what I call "Band Buddies" -- Friends inside and outside of the band hall!


Indoor Percussion 2009.  We look scary (and maybe miserable), but we were really having a blast!

Southaven High School Seniors after winning a local competition -- We won State Championships that year.  Almost all of the people in this picture started out in the same 6th grade class, 7 years before.

Christmas Laser Tag Prom!! 

Justin -- one of the 6th graders from that room who made it all the way to college with me!

Pumpkin Carving 2012 -- all but 4 of these friends are from band,

Christmas Movie Night! 
Me and some Band Buddies at St. Augustine, FL during the Gator Bowl 2012.

We met Will during our Sophomore year of high school -- and he followed us to Mississippi State!
Famous Maroon Band Banquet 2013
I met Adam last year, and we've been in the Wind Ensemble for a year and a half together (I think that's right).  This picture was taken at my last MSU Wind Ensemble Concert.

Cevion -- a great Trumpet Buddy I met just last year! This picture was taken at the Texas A&M game.


  1. I remember exactly how you feel and I'm ten years removed from band and DCI. I miss it like crazy, but the qualities you learned in band will help you succeed later in life. Good luck!

  2. You don't have to stop with college! There are many find adult bands out there where you can play recreationally and keep building friendships. I play in Northshore Concert Band (Chicago), and one of our key messages to younger players is that you don't have to stop playing and enjoying all the things that you love about being a part of a band. You can do that for life.

  3. I'd endure the purgatory of high school again for the opportunity to be in band. The best time of my life.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I am a proud mom of a high school sophomore who plays tenor sax in our high school marching band. I have enjoyed watching my son experience many of the same wonderful things you have over the years. Best of luck to you as you prepare to graduate!

  5. Great essay. The fun and friendships and musical accomplishments do not have to end with graduation. After dialing back for a few years to start career and family, I started playing again in church, then in community symphonic band, then in big bands and community theater pit orchestras and small ensembles. I am now a better player than ever and a member of an incredible jazz ensemble. So keep on blowing!

  6. Great article and very true. I was a Trumpet player in the Famous Maroon Band from 1964-1968--First Chair the last 3 years. I went on to be an Air Force Pilot and F-16 Squadron Commander. I flew for FEDEX for 22 years. I was successful because on the discipline and precision I learned in Band. Your memories of MSU will only get stronger.

  7. Bailey, that's a GREAT testimony to the enjoyment and VALUE of music as a part of one's life. In elementary and junior high, I studied piano and joined the high school band (Louisville, MS) as a 7th grader. At MSU, I majored in piano, but my life's work has been in healthcare. Music...specifically, the organ, has been my life-long avocation for the 44 years since I left MSU. BUT...leaving MSU doesn't mean your FMB experience is over. If you rode on PAPA's bus even once during the past four years, you were riding with me. FMB is forever. Good luck as you take the next big step in your life. Take my advice: Never, never, NEVER get to the point when music is not a prominent part of your life. It will serve you well...always.

  8. Bailey, I too had a wonderful band experience in Middle school and High School. In college I sang in the choir, accapella ensemble and a traveling group, but never played my Tenor Sax, I graduated and started to work which took me all over the world to over 30 countries, still sang, never played! 22 years ago, I moved to Oviedo, FL and joined a Church that wanted to start an orchestra for the Worship Services. I was encouraged to find my Sax and join the group. Today, I play Tenor, Alto and Soprano Sax, we rehearse once a week and I play on Sundays. We have a Sax Quartet and other ensembles as well. So, After playing for 11 years, then not playing for 19 years, now playing for the last 22 years, I can say that Band has had such a positive influence on my life!! Today, I am 60 years old and I love playing and my fellow musicians in Oviedo are some of my greatest friends, so in closing, you may be graduating, but find a way to keep PLAYING!!! All the Best

  9. I'm making sure my daughter reads this. She's in the sixth grade, beginner band. Thank you!

  10. For me, it didn't end when I graduated from college (22 years ago). I still play in the local community band -- and some of the people who are in the community band with me are people who were in band with me in high school and college!

  11. Lovely article. I spent 10 years playing instruments as well - violin in 5th and 6th, cello in 7th through sophomore in college. I ended up "breaking up" with my cello because I realized I did not want to spend an hour to two every single day practicing, nor did I want to become a professional musician or teach music. I now teach English in other countries. I joined Peace Corps. I sometimes VERY MUCH miss playing, but I never regretted my decision to play for 10 years, nor my decision to quit. I was a musician for a season, not a lifetime.

    Good writing. I added you to my feedly account!
    (an aside: May I suggest you enable "anonymous posting" so that people can leave comments more easily using their name/url?)

  12. Congrats! I know that story; strangely I'm still on that kick.