Daily Archives: October 23, 2010

Stringed instruments tune up and join the marching band

When my friend, Dru, told me that her son’s high school marching band includes strings, I was skeptical. As a violinist, I had a hard enough time bowing in the right direction and hitting the right notes in youth orchestra. But march? Nah.I’m not known for my coordination.

Turns out those playing the stringed instruments don’t actually march. Instead, they sit on a platform and the band marches around them. Okay, maybe I could have done that. Maybe.

So this week when Dru asked if I wanted to watch the Goshen, Ind., high school band practice for their semi-state competition, I jumped at the chance. I really had no idea what to expect. Certainly nothing like what I saw.

First, those stringed instruments? They’re electric, which, if you’ve never seen one, you’re in for a surprise. Unlike the standard acoustic stringed instruments, they’re kind of a funky shape. To see one, click here: Redwood Starfish.

At the stadium, we climbed clear to the top “for the best view”, says Dru. Okay, first of all, I haven’t been to the stop of a stadium in a long time….it always makes my toes tingle to climb up those aluminum steps. Anyway, from way up there, we could see the whole band — all 170 or so members. At the far left, were five string players — what looked like two violins, one viola, one cello and one bass, all hooked up to an amplifier.

I realized only too late that I’d failed to bring a camera, so here’s what the band looked like via my phone:


Goshen High School marching band

For some one accustomed to watching bands that march onto the field, playing some great music with a little choreography, this was an amazing experience. Now I understand why this band has won so many awards. They not only have a great sound, but they have an amazingly difficult routine…well, at least for someone unaccustomed to this type of band. Here’s a YouTube video: Goshen band. At the left, you’ll see the strings. In this particular clip, Dru’s son, Brett, a senior is one of the two sax soloists.

As the assistant director, who was up in the press box, put them through their paces over and over, the band members were clearly tiring but they were alert. No one was going to mess around. When he finally let them do a full run-through, I’m not sure who cheered louder — the band members or the parents watching.

Saturday morning, at 5:45 a.m., five buses and a semi holding the band’s gear, pulled away from the high school and headed for Indianapolis. Dru — a true band mom — had already ordered 56 pizzas to be delivered at the practice field in Indy.

When I asked if she’d be able to sleep on the bus, she guffawed. Really. You have to know her to understand that her graceful, tall and lanky frame is misleading. She guffaws. Which is probably why she makes such a great band mom. It’s also probably why they put her on the bus carrying the 8th graders, who she says “never sleep”. Besides, it’s her job to keep an eye on them. As the only girl with three brothers, she’s pretty tough, so I imagine those kids tow the line.

I haven’t yet heard how the band did in Indy. Can’t wait to hear. I’m no judge, but hey, I know what I like. They’re good.