816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider - Sporting a feather in the cap of marching band

“You’re such a good band parent!” I was told when I shared my Saturday plans of attending a band competition.

I could have nodded and agreed. It was going to be a long day — maybe I


a good band parent worthy of praise.

But that would have been a bold lie.

Instead of basking in the compliment, I confessed, “I’m a lousy band parent.”

Lousy? Yes. Although my daughter has been in marching band for three years, been going to band competitions for

three years

… this, the very last competition of the season, was my first ever.

I know! I know! I’ve gone to all the boy’s mind- and tushy-numbing practices and games for years…

…and I have never been to the


team sport my daughter participates in.

“Team sport, Susan? You sure about that?”

Yes, I am.

Sport = physical exertion + skill + competition.

Marching band.

While competition is missing from the equation during football games and parade performances (same as with cheerleading), it fulfills every requirement. These kids not only master their instruments but combine precision choreography with physical exertion while wearing a heavy uniform. It’s a sport.

A sport where they wear feathers in their caps. Try that, football.

My reasons for not going are numerous and they sound like excuses. I just didn’t go.

I had pangs of Unsupportive Parent Guilt. This was made worse when a band parent confided (I’m going to assume she was unaware that I had never been), “I feel badly for the kids whose parents don’t come to competitions.”


“Bekah, I need to go to your band competitions,” I told her recently.

“Why? We sit around kinda bored and then when we play it’s the same music as our home game field show.”

But I felt like I should go — more, I wanted to go. Band Mom Melissa agreed to be my Band Parent Mentor, her husband, Roger, our driver and sherpa. We set off one dark, cold morning for a full day of band competition.

Well, first we stopped for coffee, then set off on the 90-minute drive.

First up: Parade.

It was a parade. A real parade. Closed-off streets, grown men in little cars, beauty pageant winners and marching bands. Lots and lots of marching bands. I would have thought they would all blend, but no — each one was different in size, color, character and music.

Next up: Camping. The Super Band Parents had sent up a camp of chairs, tables and a big ol’ grill. I began to feel less like a parent and more like a groupie. Mentor Melissa couldn’t think of anything for me to do so I followed Roger’s lead and cracked open a book.

Unlike when I open a book at a baseball game, no one said anything about how odd it was to read then and there. Even though I am musically illiterate, I thought I might have found my people.

As the day progressed I watched our color guard perform a routine so beautiful it made my eyes mist.

I watched our drumline compete. I didn’t even know we


a drumline.

Finally, it was time for the field show competition.

I cheered for each school I saw, even the ones where I had no idea where the town was. Everyone in the audience did.

I am no better as a band parent than I am as a sport-with-a-ball parent. I’m a work in progress just like my kids are. But recognizing my shortcomings and trying to fix them? That puts a feather in my cap.