Editor’s Note, November 2015: Marching Band Memories

As anyone who has ever donned a plumed hat will attest, band bonds you to more than just sheet music.

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Amanda Heckert Marching Band
Editor-in-Chief, Amanda Heckert’s high school marching band photo.

More than 15 years after I last put on a marching band uniform, I still find it impossible not to tap my toes when a drumline starts up. Four sweltering summers stepping to the beat—left, right, left, right—practicing in a high school parking lot; performing at halftime under the blinding flood lights; countless Saturdays traveling to competitions in all corners of the state. That experience will forever ingrain 4/4 time into your psyche, like it or not.

As the young men and women highlighted in our “I’m with the Band” photo essay could likely attest, though, band does bond you to more than sheet music. I made several of my best friends during those long hours we spent sweating into our mouthpieces, groaning over the horrid shoes we wore (tragically called Dinkles), and giggling over cute brass players. Since then, we’ve been each other’s bridesmaids. Supported one another at funerals. Rushed to hospital rooms to meet babies, a new generation who will no doubt crack up when they find old photos of us as girls, mugging in our plumed hats and suspenders.

I was never ashamed or embarrassed, though, and most other kids weren’t either. (Looking back at my besequined self in the picture above, maybe I should have been.) My high school was smaller than Carmel, Avon, or Ben Davis, but an impressive number marched—about a fifth of the student body. That meant we “band nerds” were well represented in other arenas, from star soccer players to valedictorians to homecoming queens.

Maybe I can thank that experience, too, for this job. Before becoming editor-in-chief, I erred in thinking I had never managed people before—I had forgotten about band. My junior year, I was named drum major, the highest position. Not only was I responsible for keeping 125 people playing in time, but solved squabbles between the color guard and helped people play (sometimes literally) to their strengths.

Of course, not every skill I developed was transferable. Being editor doesn’t demand an ability to direct a rousing rendition of “Oye Como Va.” But I’m tempted to borrow a little more inspiration from those days. Starting with more sequins.

Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.

This article appeared in the November 2015 issue.

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