Friday, October 3, 2008

It's okay, I'm with the Band

An unsolicited plug for a local event: tomorrow night, starting at 6, Norwich Free Academy Wild Cats are hosting the "2008 Classic Band Festival" which, despite the name will NOT include Iron Butterfly or The Grassroots, but kidding aside, is a spectacular event.

My daughter, Michelle, played in the NFA Orchestra for all four years of her attendance at NFA and the last two, she was also in the Wildcats Marching Band. There's something about a young woman in uniform, with a French Horn and the snazzy marching shoes (kidding, kiddo!). Many of the region's high schools and usually a couple of special guests will razzle and dazzle family and friends in competition with grades for musical execution as well as marching and presentation.

My wife and I spent years attending competitions (schools compete in probably a half-dozen or so every season but can only 'exhibit' at their own.) Each school's event is a major fundraiser for many of the activities the students in the music departments are involved in and without putting too fine a point on this, in many instances, make those activities possible. We were fortunate that the NFA-hosted competitions were in Dodd Stadium (the baseball season was over and the lighting in terms of the field was spectacular) which, having sat in bleacher seats at Putnam High School, Fitch and Waterford (to name just three places) was just super. Having concessions and bathrooms (input AND output) really close was also very nice as the crispl Fall evenings start a little earlier and a little colder atop the Norwich Business Park.

The playing field at Dodd was resurfaced a while back and that undertaking forced NFA back to its own field, behind the school on Broadway, which means metal bleachers and a lot of cars from people outside of Norwich wandering the side streets trying to find a place to park without losing sight of the flood lights beyond the Chelsea Parade so they know where the school is.

For a fifty-something year old man, the marching bands remind me that generalizations about generational differences and stereotypes are just that, generalizations. For the most part, if I were on a sidewalk in downtown Norwich (there's an intriguing image!) and saw a group of 'teenagers' walking towards me, I'd probably cross the street not out of physical fear, but just to minimize possible unpleasantness. They would, and could, be oblivious to my existence (the two I helped raise were, for the most part) but I'd still be uneasy. No reason-just My Generation against not-my generation (I've become my own parent).

However, watching about a thousand of these young folks (I'm including the flag people as part of the marching band. Band members often get college music scholarships of some kind. I don't know if that's true of flag folks, though it looks to be hard work and they do lots of it) in the course of three or four hours execute intricate marching maneuvers (I always think of Robert Klein's 'A Tribute to Mayonnaise') while playing instruments (I cannot chew gum much less chew gum AND walk) to a rapturous reception from the stands is good for the spirit.

I suspect there are tickets still available for the show tomorrow night in Norwich, and at the most , they'll be about $8 because that's the going rate for these shows (and for a senior citizen (I know, I'm closing in on the discount, but I'm not there yet) or a student, there's a reduced price), you get to have as much fun as all the other people who've paid to watch the show, though I don't think any of us have anywhere near as much fun as the people on the field. Turns out The Kids Are Alright.
-bill kenny

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