Late Step Off

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Hello from Mandeville, Louisiana; one of those nice towns on the north end of Lake Pontchartrain a causeway ride from New Orleans.  I am slipping in this blog post while waiting for the start of the Clash of Titans, a marching band competition at the nearby Lakeshore High School.

For those of you new to the Bear Feed … first of all, where you been all my life?  But to catch you up to speed, during the falls I run around the country judging high school marching band competitions.  It’s been a hobby of mine for over 20 years, and still gets me excited for the weekends and the fun that comes with it.  At least usually.

This year has been a bit of a struggle.  My judging season has hit more snags than I have ever seen, but finally with the season nearing a close, I might be actually having some of this season go my way a little.

It actually started pretty promising.  With taking on additional work with a California circuit (Western Band Association or WBA), my pre-season schedule had 7 shows in four states ranging from early September through the beginning of November.  One of those shows I picked up out of luck of being in the area for my JPL work.  That’s as good of a schedule as I have had in nearly 10 years.

The trouble began when I got a note in mid-August that two of my WBA shows were cancelled.  I wasn’t cancelled, the shows were.  Marching band is an expensive process for a school, and competitions can be a real drain on budgets.  Between transportation, food, and getting people to haul those kids around, schools have to be picky what competitions they agree to attend.  That meant these two shows didn’t have enough bands to put on a good program – and unlucky for me, I was on both panels.  That still left a respectable 5 shows in my season, but still it makes it tough to backfill work so late.  WBA did make it up to me, booking me for another show – this time one of their big ones at UNLV in Las Vegas, but 6 shows is still less than 7.

Then things got wet.  That first show of the year in Cincinnati was rained out.  We still allowed bands to perform in a gymnasium, but when you judge visual (essentially, marching and choreography), and the space is too small to move, you have nothing to really judge.  Still I would have taken that over the next trip.

A couple weeks back, I was scheduled for a full day show in Louisville, KY.  On a recommendation, I got a cheap direct flight from LAX to Indianapolis, early enough to make the 2 hour drive down before dinner.  That is if the flight left on time.  Sitting on the plane, they stated there was a mechanical issue that would cause a delay.  That led to a second delay.  And then a third.  Then the crew couldn’t stick around because they timed out.  For the next four hours they would tack on 30 minutes to the delay four or five times. After that, they just went ahead and pushed it another 4 hours.  Late in the LAX afternoon, I am on the phone with the judging group trying to make a decision.  At that point my flight looked to arrive in Indianapolis at around 3AM, which meant IF the rental agency was open, I would have just enough time to arrive in Louisville for the show … but that also means, sleepless driving in the middle of the night.  Ultimately, I couldn’t confirm that the rental place would be opened (thank you Hertz for not picking up your phone), and had to cancel out.  The first time in 20+ years I couldn’t get to a show … and couldn’t do my job.  I was gutted, frustrated, and angry.

Things started to get on track with a show in Fresno last week.  This time, it wasn’t as much the logistics, the weather, the situation … no it was just me.  Had an off day, and didn’t really nail that show.  Still, it happened, and I should be happy with that

But then … i still have three weeks to go.

Today, it’s the small show at Lakeshore High School in Mandeville, CA.

Next week, the WBA Super Show at UNLV.

Week after, I finish out the season with a small show in Palm Desert, CA.

A good season, if all goes to plan, it just needs to go as planned.

For any of those schools and kids out there in the Marching Band World, good luck, give it your best, and we’ll see you on the field.

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