As I was driving down the road a couple of weeks ago, I saw several buses full of high school band and choir students, heading to Northwest for the annual district music contest.
As if right on cue, tears started streaming down my cheeks right there in my car.
That’s what is has come to these days.
This odd phenomenon has been happening a lot to me in recent years. Getting emotional every time I see a marching band or a busload of students heading off to some competition or when I hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” or someone singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
I know I’m not alone in this, however, as I’ve had friends share similar experiences.
Still, it’s somewhat inexplicable to me. But I guess maybe what it’s really about is four fantastic years at Maryville High School, chock-full of musical memories.
Most people know about my passion for athletics in high school, but I was also very involved in both band and choir.
As students, we were surrounded by greatness, teaching, leading and inspiring us. Lee and Nina Schneider. Dennis Dau. Marilyn Rhea.
Memories of these teachers spark such great fondness within me.
Performing at home football games and at Christmas and Spring concerts, marching in parades and field competitions, participating at District and State Music Contest, playing at events with the Jazz and Dixieland bands.
And then there were the invitations to perform at the “big ticket” affairs…
Concert choir at the music educators’ conference in Tan-Tar-A during my sophomore year. I still get chills when I recall our performance of “The Bells.” I lost my starting position on the basketball team to go on that trip because I missed a practice before a game. But I’ve never felt that was a bad thing because it was such a great experience.
Traveling to El Paso, TX, for the Sun Bowl Parade with the marching band my freshman year. That was definitely a long bus ride. It was also my first time traveling across the border into Mexico. It was so hot down there at Thanksgiving, and we were dressed in those dark green wool uniforms, that several band members got sick while high stepping to “Hi Neighbor” down the road.
And then the biggest one of all, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a tradition that we only go on one big trip every four years, and even though we had just gone to El Paso the year before, it was just too big to pass up. What memories. We also stopped in Chicago on our way back home for the Ronald McDonald Christmas Parade.
Music has not only provided me with so many great memories, but an abundance of opportunities to learn and grow over the years.
It is a way for us to understand and be understood.
Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
I believe it’s also unique in that it can be both powerful and peaceful. I once read that music can “lull a baby to sleep or bring a crowd to its feet.”
It can connect people and cultures all over the world or just down the street.
Music also helps us to feel. That we’re not alone in the world. That other people have felt the same things we have felt. That we can endure.
And it also has the ability to bring about change.
William Congreve said, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
So the next time you see me standing on the street corner of a parade or in the audience of a concert — and I’m crying like a baby — realize it’s more than just memories of what I have experienced. It’s joy and excitement for the current generation of students who are getting their chance of experiencing that same gift of music, too.
Because, as Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”