The Farmington High School Tiger Marching Band has made waves in the media recently, and many people have been quick to form and vocalize opinions about the band’s field show, regardless of whether they have seen the band perform (“Farmington High band, accused of playing politics, marches on,” local section, Sept. 8, and “Farmington High band, accused of playing politics, was squelched,” Opinion Exchange, Sept. 11). One thing, however, has seemingly gone unnoticed: the students themselves. No one seems to be talking about how the band is playing or how they are marching, and that is disappointing, because those kids are working hard and they deserve to be noticed for it.
Farmington is performing a show called “Dystopia,” inspired by the common literary and cinematic genre and featuring the music of “Wired” by Gary P. Gilroy. Farmington’s translation of the music to the field is artistic; it has depth. When you watch the show, you can actually follow the story they are telling. Not all marching bands do that well.
There are three things that stand out to me about their band. The first is their sound. Those kids are putting a lot of air through their horns and are projecting their sound really well on the field. If you’ve never tried to play a tuba while marching backward on your toes, you probably don’t understand how hard it is to maintain a good tone quality while doing it. It is hard. There are a few missed notes here and there, but overall, the students in this band know what they’re doing, and they play it.
I was also impressed with their basic marching fundamentals. Every single horn is held high, and every single student stands as tall as possible; posture is excellent. While marching backward, they are on their toes, their legs are straight and no one is leaning back like they may fall over. They have some straight lines and diagonals that need to be ironed out, but those will get better with practice as their season progresses.
The third and by far most impressive thing I noticed was how well they sounded and moved together. Playing in any kind of musical ensemble is a team effort. Every individual is working hard and doing their best. However, they are doing that for the betterment of the group as a whole. In a musical ensemble — band, choir, orchestra or any other — students work together as individuals to create something that is so much bigger than themselves. I think that is most visible in marching bands. My absolute favorite part of watching the Farmington show, hands down, was seeing so many individual teenagers working together to create something so much bigger than themselves.
This is what being a part of music does for kids. They think beyond themselves; they care beyond themselves. There are 155 students in the Farmington High School Marching Band; 155 teenagers who have all memorized 10 minutes of music, are watching conductors to make sure they make the right adjustments and are listening to 154 people around them to make sure their sound blends exactly how it is supposed to. They know it isn’t about the individual, but they each know the importance of their own part. Every single person on that field matters every single time they perform. Every single performer is in the starting lineup. I don’t know of another activity that puts 155 starters out there every single time.
Art, in any form, is all about interpretation. Everyone interprets art differently, and everyone has different tastes. If we didn’t each have our own unique interpretations of art, we would all feel the same way about everything and there really would be no point in creating art. We would lose, in a sense, what it means to be human.
The students in the Farmington Tiger Marching Band have worked hard to create something so much bigger than any one of them as individuals, and that is something that not only they should be proud of, but we, as a society, should be proud of, too.
Kristin Chase, of Roseville, is a band teacher.