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Band on the run

It took me way too long to figure this out, but the secret to enjoying a school band concert is a big glass of red wine beforehand. Tonight’s program consisted of performances by three bands, and my kid was playing in the last one. I didn’t mind. It’s becoming clear to me that my band concerts are numbered. Grace is in 10th grade. Sam is a senior. I’ve watched a lot of these kids grow up. Half of the fun is realizing that the lovely young woman playing the clarinet was Grace’s first friend when we moved to town 11 years ago. And I love watching all the goofy little boys turn into awkward young men, their charm and angst taking turns at who’s in charge.

With kids so close in age, I feel like I’ve been to a double dose of concerts going back to the fourth-grade recorder concerts. Let me just say, that’s a terrible introduction to band music for a parent. It sets you up for years of dread. Thank God, the instruments and the kids’ musical skills get better. Still, I’ve noticed the only school bands I really like are the ones my kids are in. The other ones need more practice, or don’t have enough passion. It must be that Sam and Grace are just really great musicians.

But tonight, as I listened to the concert band, I loved it even though Grace wasn’t playing. I loved all the personalities up there, playing their hearts out. It made me think of certain high-school classmates from yesteryear. It made me wonder about some of the adults I know now, and imagine what they were like in high school. It made me sort of love all of humanity — how hard we try, the joyful noise we make in the process.

During the concert band’s last song, a little kid in the row behind us dropped his Nintendo under our seats. As the audience applauded and the band left the stage, Sam rescued the game and handed it back to the kid’s dad. “Sorry, I don’t see the stylus,” Sam said. I handed him my phone to use as a light, but no luck.

“That’s ok,” the dad said. “We’ll look for it after the concert.”

The kid started whimpering and crying. Just as I was about to get annoyed, he became aware of his surroundings. During the transition from one band to the next, several audience members had gotten up and left. These were the concert-band parents whose kids had just finished their set. I speak from experience when I say they were seizing the opportunity to reclaim their evening and at the same time be good citizens, since it was a standing-room-only situation. It’s really a win-win. But the kid behind us didn’t see it that way, as he watched more audience members take their seats and get settled in for some fine entertainment.

“Why are people still coming?” the boy whined. “Is this going to go on forever?”

“Yes, it is,” I said over my shoulder with a laugh. But honestly, it doesn’t. In the grand scheme of things, it feels like it’s over in a heartbeat.
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