john-horner-peabody-tn-band-football2008by Marc C. Whitt

I’m sure many of you, like me, are knee-deep in marching band season. From Friday night football games to all-day Saturday marching contests mixed with after school rehearsals and band camp days, the Fall not only is a beautiful time of year, it is a wonderfully busy one for music parents as we proudly demonstrate our support for the band program.

More years than I care to remember when I marched in college, I will never forget a moment when the worlds of football and marching band collided.

It was the second day of band camp and more than 200 of us were melting under a hot, humid August sun. As we did our “8-to-5s” on the pavement, the college football team was on the opposite side of the fence practicing in the stadium.

During one of our sets I noticed three pad-laden football players slowly walking up the embankment from the stadium field, punching one another, laughing, then impersonating band members playing an instrument. As they laced their fingers through the chain link fence that separated us, they began calling out, “Hey! Hey! I want to march! Can I march with you, bugle boys?”

Our director, an icon at my alma mater, told us to keep focused on the business at hand and ignore them. We did as we were instructed and continued to work on fundamentals.

As the threesome continued their sophomoric jabs, the football coach, another icon, slowly walked behind them. He listened to them for a few moments before grabbing their pads and leading them away from their post.

Most of us thought they were probably facing an afternoon of unforgivable drills. Instead, the football coach walked them over to our band director and then motioned for him to come down from his platform. The two briefly chatted, chuckled and shook hands, leaving the three football players awkwardly standing before the band.

Turning on his megaphone, our director announced that Coach had something to share with us. He then handed over the mic to Coach who said something so profound, it left such an indelible mark on me more than 30 years later.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know how much I appreciate you and all you do for our university,” he said. “My boys play better because of you and your efforts. Obviously these three (freshmen) need to learn that lesson. So beginning today and going through the remainder of the week, they will join you as members of the marching band. They need to know what you do is just as hard and important. After all, we’re all on the same team.”

I will never forget that life changing moment. It wasn’t about retribution or getting even. It was a simple reminder that for each role we assume, we’re all on the same team—supporting, in this case, our school.

It was by no accident that our football coach was invited to be the marching band banquet keynote speaker that year.

Several years later, a high school football coach and band director, both of whom were friends, captured the attention of our state’s media when at the state high school marching band finals, the coach brought his entire team to sit in the stadium throughout the day and evening to cheer on their high school band in its quest for a state finals position and possible championship.

The coach said, “The band supported my team throughout football season. This is the least we could do to show them our appreciation and support.”

Wow. What a powerful message and sight that was!

Life lessons such as these are wonderful reminders for us all. Unfortunately, not all schools are blessed to have such appreciation for the commitment and sacrifice our band kids make. My dad, a retired band director, certainly never experienced this type of symbiotic relationship!

But for those that do, our children win by the examples we set for them—no matter what role they and we play.

As music parents, let’s continue to advocate for our children, our directors and our music programs by reminding others that regardless of our life’s calling, whether it be musician or athlete, we’re all on the same team.

(featured image: credit,, Empowering Multiplicity)