We take pride in our town: elected officials, police department, fire department, recreation department, and town-administered services. The display of town pride usually comes from our schools and sports teams. Over the last few years, I’ve learned something else. There is a marching band including a horn line, drum line, pit, and color guard – a group of students in grades 7-12 who rally and perform.

They sit in the stands and play fight songs. They march out at halftime and entertain us for about 10 minutes, and then pack up their instruments and go home until the next game, right? Wrong. As a band parent, I’ve learned a few things that I never thought about until my own children became involved. The amount of time these students and teachers spend working on their activity is mind-boggling.

The work starts officially in August during five days of band camp, 9-12 hours a day. They stand on the hard, hot pavement in the parking lot with the summer sun (or rain) beating down, because teams are using the field. They learn and adjust the music and routine over and over. Water breaks last two minutes. Sweat is everywhere. Sore legs, sore arms, sore everything. In the morning you drop off your excited teenager. Later in the day, you pick up an exhausted, extra crispy piece of bacon. The next morning, bright and early, the routine repeats.

After band camp, there are practices up to four hours twice per week, not including pre-football or competition practices. When school starts, practice is on Tuesday right after school until 6 or 7 p.m. and on Thursday from 6-9 p.m. At some point, students do their homework or go to their jobs. Then the season starts, with band competitions that coincide with football season.

From playing at football games to playing at competitions, from 9 in the morning to midnight, the band is working. It is one of the hardest sports ever, and one of the least recognized. So the next time you see them playing, give them a nod, a pat on the back, a “job well done,” a “thank you for representing our town and adding to our town spirit.”

They are the Jefferson Golden Falcon Marching Band.

Richard McMahon, Oak Ridge
The writer’s daughter, Emily McMahon, is a member of the marching band.

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