A second last show

Senior year of high school is a time filled with lasts. Your last first day, last homecoming, last game or competition. It is one of those bittersweet points in your life that is filled with memories you can look back on. One of my fondest and proudest memories is my very last time performing on a field with my marching band at University of Maryland for the USBands Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. This competition defined senior year as one of my proudest accomplishments. Our show was called “Decomposers,” a zombie-themed show with Beethoven and Mozart music. The day came for our competition, the last show of our successful season and the last show of my high school career.

(Photo by Josh Headly)

Everyone was beyond excited to perform in front of such a large crowd and stadium. The beginning of our show began the second we processed onto the field carrying a coffin. Yes, we built a coffin and carried it in. The best part was, one of the zombie-dressed drum majors was inside. We had performed the procession in a dozen times, but this time was it, the last time. The energy I felt surrounding me by my bandmates was more than nervousness; it was excitement, dedication, and purpose. We were determined to perform our best show and have a memorable time despite being one of the smallest bands out of all the high schools that were performing that day. Out of all the schools, 14 would go to the finals despite the size but solely based off scores.

Our odds were not great. We knew we would try our hardest and enjoy the moment as it was presented whether we qualified for finals or not. The crowd knew that too. The show ended as the simple piano melody played, we transformed our posture and groaned like zombies, limping towards the coffin as we fell one by one until we each hit the ground, and our drum major crawled back in his coffin and it closed with a slow creak. It was silent; the spectators were holding their breath. The audience filled with our parents, friends, other competing schools, and strangers exploded in applause.

By the end of our show, I was out of breath from the fast pace of 118 beats per minute and on the brim of tears as I played my last note next to my friends who spent the past four years of our lives making this band the best we could, and there was a lot of building we had to do to get to where we were on that day. The performance we gave showed our emotion and dedication in a creative art form combining, music, movement, and acting.

The pride and satisfaction I felt carried me off the field. The second we hit the pavement, everyone’s breathing had calmed, but the excitement for awards skyrocketed. We hiked up the extremely steep hill carrying all we had to get to our bus to change. After we changed, we stormed the stadium in search of our friends and family who came to watch us.

(Photo by Josh Headly)

The first round of awards came around where they would give places based within our division. We were one of the smaller 3A bands. There were some other outstanding performances that we watched that made us nervous as time went on. Our drum majors marched on the field and stood in their spot as the judges began calling scores over the intercom. It went like this, “Now for division 3A. With a score of 82…” the crowd silent, will it be us? Then the announcers give the name of the school. This process became extremely nerve racking as the numbers climbed. “With a score of 90, in second place…. Perry Hall High School!” We scream and cheer, no matter what the score, we are proud of ourselves. I was so pleased with our score and place, but what really mattered came next. Would we be one of the 14 bands going to the finals?

We waited nervously for the announcers to come back with the qualifiers. We all tried convincing ourselves it didn’t really matter if we were done, because our performance was nearly perfect in our own eyes. The announcers came back on and as they began with the highest scored qualifier and worked their way down the pressure began to build. It felt like time slowed down. I looked around at my friends and directors. Everyone was counting on their fingers, calculating predictions. Would we qualify? “Probably not.” “Maybe.” “No definitely not.” “Wait there’s a chance.” “I’m just going to wait and listen.” The chatter around me continued. They got to the 11th qualifier, the 12th, and then the 13th. The 14th qualifier… we held our breath…Perry Hall High School.

I let out the deepest breath of my life. It was a blur, we screamed and cheered louder than anyone. By this point in the very long and exhausting day there was no holding back tears anymore. I was surrounded by my friends, my music directors, and all our band parents screaming from behind us. That moment of celebration with my band over such an accomplishment was better than any award we would receive that day.

This meant we got to perform again that same evening to compete with the other top 13 bands in the Mid-Atlantic region. In logical minds we knew we would not get a higher place, although we did end up jumping up one spot to beat out the other 3A band that had first place in our division. While I thought I already had my last show with that band, I gained the gift a second last show. This one was different, though. There was no intensity to beat our competition like that first one. Our sole purpose was to show everyone in the stands a fantastic show that we enjoyed performing and to show ourselves that all of our hard work and dedication had paid off.    

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