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High School Band Nerd

Updated on December 15, 2014

My Jacket Band Letters - Closeup


Were you one of us?


Band nerds didn't just pop up out of thin air. They had to be nurtured and cultivated in fertile music ground. In my part of the country, they started in fourth grade in September. You and your parents were invited to an after school showcase. A chosen classroom was converted into an instrument ZOO. Shiny instruments of all shapes and sizes were displayed. With rubbing alcohol and clean cotton balls in hand, high school students volunteered to help the band director demonstrate the instruments and guide the grade school kids into getting sounds out of the mouthpieces. The band director checked your mouth shape and teeth position to see if they would be suited to a particular horn.

I think at the time I wanted a big instrument like the saxophone. But my parents and the band director tested my embouchure (an embouchure is the way your mouth is shaped when trying to get a sound out of an instrument). They strongly pushed, I mean urged me to play the flute. I wasn't that thrilled but I did think it was a beautiful instrument. "Plus," said the director, "If she needs braces later on it's easier to play on a flute with braces than a saxophone."Later that week when we got my new rental flute, I remember I wasn't allowed to open the case in the car. That was difficult. Once at home, I could look at it and touch it in the case but I wasn't allowed to take it out until my first flute sectional at school.

My practicing experience was pretty terrible. I would try to try to get a sound out and kept getting dizzy and head achey. I could get a sound on and off but was struggling with a consistent tone. Even though I had had piano previously, reading the flute notes and holding the flute and blowing a tone while changing my fingers was frustrating and discouraging.

I told my parents I wanted to quit.

Here's what my parents said that ended up changing my whole life from there on. "Stick with playing the flute until Christmas. Then, if you really want to stop then you can."Having a way out was a relief. You can guess what happened. Flute playing started to get easier and the dizziness went away. I actually got good quickly and moved up in the flute rank.

Tales From Band Camp

Tales from Band Camp: The Arrival
Tales from Band Camp: The Arrival

Love the Mad Magazine parody cover. More humor from a former Band Geek!


And the Beat Goes On


Middle school band was my favorite because I loved the band director, Mr. Schuch (pronounced shoe). He picked really great pieces and was a positive jovial personality. We played the Mission Impossible Theme and Der Meistersinger. Even though I wasn't taking private lessons yet, I was usually first or second chair in the flute section.

Popular joke: What's the football team doing on the band field?

Funky Winkerbean


The Author Marching with Her Piccolo


The Float's afloat!


Now to witness the stardom of the true high school elite; those of us in the high school marching band! 10th grade was the beginning of high school. Even before the official school year started we had BAND CAMP. In Pennsylvania, August was and is the hottest month. There were days in the 90's. Plus, there was no shade on the field. Hot and sweaty, you lived for the water breaks. But it was so cool to be with a music group.

The whole school would stand in awe of us come the fall as we marched our configurations of geometric shapes on the field. We were royalty with our feathered shakos (hats for those of you not in the know). We were the cream of the crop, well, except I guess for the football players and cheer leaders maybe.

Our duties were to perform at all the football games at home and away. Although we weren't in sports, our activities and school spirit dedication gave us the ability to earn school letters and special band jackets.The homecoming parade was the highlight. Every special club or group in school had their float. I don't have any pictures, but man I remember making dozens of blue and white paper flowers and sticking them on the float! I started marching with a flute and graduated to piccolo my senior year. A real thrill was being in the piccolo line while being showcased during the Stars and Stripes Forever. That, and playing the Theme From Shaft! Us flute and piccolo players were allowed to tie school color ribbons on the tails of our instruments so they would flutter in the breeze as we marched and played. We played our music displayed in full decoration.

You know you're a band nerd when...

you STILL think the corny band innuendos are hilarious.

High School Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My sister with bandmates. Notice her helmet is different from my shakos!My Band LettersMy Band JacketMe in High School. I remember those pants.Me marching past my family trying to play and wave at the same time.
My sister with bandmates. Notice her helmet is different from my shakos!
My sister with bandmates. Notice her helmet is different from my shakos! | Source
My Band Letters
My Band Letters | Source
My Band Jacket
My Band Jacket | Source
Me in High School. I remember those pants.
Me in High School. I remember those pants. | Source
Me marching past my family trying to play and wave at the same time.
Me marching past my family trying to play and wave at the same time. | Source

Do you march to a different drummer?

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    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @ThreeQuarters2Day: Just checked it out, they are sharp and excellent!

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @ThreeQuarters2Day: Will definitely check it out. Go Band Moms!!

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @esmonaco: Thank you so much. You should start playing again!

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @favored: The wonderful thing is how music was a major influence in you and your family's life. Thanks for not thinking of us as nerds! :)

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 

      5 years ago from Nebraska

      I was in marching band in high school, ok I carried the banner, but it was easier than carrying the piano and no one told me I could carry the bells. My kids were all in marching band and I was/am the ultimate band parent nerd. I have a whole YouTube channel of our schools music program. They even marched in Washington DC in the Memorial Day parade.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      5 years ago from Lakewood New York

      I played football in high school, but didn't escape the band, as I played the trumpet in the concert band. I was never that good but held my own. Great story :)

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @TJHousel: I'm the same way. High school was kind of painful but band was my happy memory. Thanks for stopping by.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      I guess you could say so. The way you tell your story is great. Enjoyed reading it and seeing the photographs. Loved my music classes in school, but I never played in the band. I admire those who do and never thought of them as nerds. That's probably because my family played so many different instruments and we were always surrounded by music.

    • TJHousel profile image


      5 years ago from NE Ohio

      I was a band nerd. Our director affectionately called us his "band-dos." While high school was a bit of a drag, my best memories are usually band or band room related.

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @yoursfoolie: Wow, thank you so much for telling your story! I feel such camaraderie. I totally enjoy hearing your experiences with bands (which I agree with BTW) and the whole braces thing. I still ended up being a music ed major with flute as my main instrument. I love watching marching bands still but would never want to relive my high school days, ha ha!

    • yoursfoolie profile image


      5 years ago

      I was a band nerd! Wait ~ I still AM a band nerd! Had the exact opposite experience: they looked at my overbite and told me I'd better take up the clarinet. But I didn't: I became the only person I know who played unaccompanied solo gigs everywhere from the state capitol to restaurants, galleries etc. With some of the money, I got braces in my twenties. Don't let them tell you it's easy to play the flute with braces: they let a flood of air behind your front lip and ruin your tone completely. To keep playing the jobs that were paying for my tone-ruining braces, I had to ~ get this ~ play for hours and hours to develop a callus between the back of my upper lip and the braces, then hook that line of callus below the braces themselves, and control all the embouchure adjustments from there on down...The thing about those band uniforms in August and September is, we told ourselves as we sweated buckets and dealt with sweaty fingers slipping around on our instrument keys that at least when the weather cooled off they'd keep us warm. But somehow they didn't, did they? By the end of the season it was commonplace to have long undies and a pair of other pants, heavy sweaters and even short coats underneath when we could get away with it. A cup of cheap, bitter, black coffee, as I remember, tasted just about like heaven...I've been privileged to see marching drum and bugle corps ~ their standard of excellence is just about inhuman, and they never fail to pick up my blood flow. One can understand why these instruments have traditionally been used on the battlefield.Really enjoyed your page ~ brought back memories, as I'm sure it will for many who read it!


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