By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
On a recent school morning en route to drop off both sons, their talk turned from their enjoyment of playing their musical instruments to asking me about the “old days” when I was in band.
Talk of those days always makes me smile, especially in the fall, which to me will forever be known as Marching Band Season.
My brother and I get particularly nostalgic as the Pittsburg State University homecoming nears. As high schoolers, we were simultaneously Dragons and Gorillas, so we marched the parade route twice.
Back then, the PSU Pride of the Plains Marching Band offered high schoolers the chance to try out and participate. I was accepted my sophomore year at PHS and continued for three years. As a PSU student, I marched another three.
I loved every minute of it. It was physically demanding while at the same time allowing for artistic expression. It meant being part of a group of like-minded individuals who started from nothing and, in the ultimate display of teamwork and discipline, in a week or so had created something.
But for my poor mother, fall days were spent shuttling me to PHS by 7 a.m. for an hourlong practice on the field before school started, then getting me to the PSU field by 3:30 p.m. for two more hours of practice.
It also meant a complicated routine on the day of the PSU homecoming parade: For decades, the PSU band has led the parade from 11th Street to Second Street. The PHS band marches farther back.
So, I first would dress in my PSU crimson and gold and march south. Near Second Street, Mom met me in her trusty truck. I’d pile in, then quickly and covertly trade my crimson and gold uniform for a purple and white one as she drove north to 11th Street. There, I’d unload and line up in formation with the PHS Dragons.
Mom returned to Second Street while I marched again, then after the parade she shuttled me out to Carnie Smith Stadium to practice for the pregame and halftime shows.
She repeated this entire process with my younger brother, who also was a simultaneous Gorilla and Dragon and had the added burden of toting cumbersome percussion equipment back and forth. Mom never got to see the parades, nor did we.
But in the years since, we have made it an October ritual. Eleven years ago, we began pushing my first son in a stroller up to Second Street, where we’d clap and cheer as the bands marched by. Nine years ago, we were pulling him in a wagon. Seven years ago, a little brother joined him.
This year, a new milestone: I became a band mom. My oldest son began playing the clarinet and soon will begin marching.
I’m glad my mother finally got to put down those car keys and become a spectator. But each year, I find it harder and harder to stand on the curb. I want back in those bands.
This year’s PSU homecoming parade will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in downtown Pittsburg. Doug Whitten, director of athletic bands, said about 28 bands are slated to march.
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