Sunday, October 10, 2010

7 hours, 25 bands and 3,750 students later

I survived.

I survived judging the USSBA Central Texas Regional marching band competition in Kyle, Texas. There were 25 bands made up of approximately 3,750 high school students. I commented on every performance from 1:45pm to 9:30pm. That is 200 minutes (3 hours and 20 minutes) of taped commentary. Additionally, I made written comments and assigned scores. I was in the press box of Shelton stadium for over 9 hours. 9 hours. NINE HOURS. Most of it in an 8' x 8' room with two windows opening up to the field.

And I loved every minute of it.

Listening and watching those 25 bands - each of those over 3,000 students focused intently on the task at hand. They performed as experts. Each student had an intimate awareness of his or her musical and visual responsibilities. They were finely tuned (no-pun intended) musical marching machines. They had worked hard for over 2 and 1/2 months for those 8 minutes of performance and all of them - ALL OF THEM - left nothing behind. They gave everything they had and then some. They left the field sweating, gasping for breath - spent. The crowd roared. They performed for the sake of performance. They performed for the love of music. They performed for love of their schools, their directors and their peers. They performed for the crowds. They performed for me, the music ensemble judge and six of my colleagues. I was honored by each and every performance to be a part of that moment of musical and visual pageantry.

Not many things in this life enable us to 'transcend' our mundane existence, but music is one of those things. In music we find joy, hope, sadness and despair. We are moved personally by music. In music, we find the utmost range of emotion and purpose.

I understand why some would believe that in music they can experience a moment of heaven - primarily because I believe that music is the language of heaven. For every note, every rest, every rhythm, every melodic phrase and rhythmic impulse speaks to us in a way that speech cannot. Every note of music witnesses to a transcendent story, a universal purpose for our lives. Music can reflect the pain of living, but it also communicates the hope of resurrection.

You should have seen the faces on those kids - from the box five (superior) to the box two (fair) band - each student had a smile as they stepped on and off the field. For in performing - by playing the music - each student won. For a moment, each one spoke the language of heaven, and were changed forever by it.

I am so glad to have been a part.