Best Seat in the House


This is a post I started at least three times, but because of some hardware issues I couldn’t get far enough along to give it to you — so consider that the excuse for not posting in a week.

Last Saturday I ended an eventful Marching Band Season with a bang.  For those of you who don’t know, I spend my weekends in September & October running around the country judging high school marching band competitions.  It’s something I took up shortly after I stopped marching, and with the exception of the autumn of my first year in Alaska I have continued to judge for 19 years.  During that time, I’ve judged in 12 different states, and adjudicated over 12 state/regional major championships.  For a guy who limits himself to just high school marching band (at this point no drum corps, no winter activities), it’s actually a pretty impressive resume.

This year found some nice unique twists.  I did a show outside of New Orleans.  Traveling like that has always been the norm, even when I first started I would expect a 4 hour drive to a show.  The last time I ‘drove’ to a show site was back in 2005.  I worked two shows this year for a Massachusetts Based circuit – which was the first time I drove home after the show.  One of those was on a Sunday, making it my first Sunday show as well.

My career in judging has always been made possible through the Central States Judging Association (CSJA), a Midwest based judges guild that brokers work and trains judges around the country.  The independent work here in Mass this year was the first time I ever worked independently.  While the training in CSJA is phenomenal and there are logistical benefits to being a part of a group that does all your booking for you; we are a fraternal order and embrace that side of it.  Some strong friends remained close through our judging group.

One of the shows this year was in the small town of Alamo, TN.  It wasn’t that outstanding of a show, it was early season and most groups were still trying to get the whole program on the field.  Yet it was at that same show site seven or eight years ago that I had the honor of judging with a high quality panel – sadly though, two of those panelists passed away before the next season.  We get to return to shows, especially those of us that are putting on the years.  It seems now I go back and I remember the people I spent time with there, remember what they taught me, and keep doing what I can to enjoy the process.

My final show of the year was just this past weekend, and was an incredible day.  For decades, the University of Memphis has hosted the Bandmasters Championships, a major competition that many schools in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi look to as their biggest of the big shows.  Not only that, the show is held at the Liberty Bowl, the home of Univ of Memphis’s college team — and on show day, the attendees reach near to 10,000 people.  Its such a well run show that doing it isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege.   All I have to do is sit in the best seat of the house, love what it is, and write down some numbers.

When you get down to the guts of it, that’s the best part of this process.  I get to a part of the a great activity, a great educational opportunity for the kids, and I get watch from the best seat in the house.


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