Early this week, I stepped onto the stage for the last time in my high school career. About an hour earlier, I proudly walked into the band room and dressed rebelliously while I was surrounded by white-and-black clad underclassmen. I sought out my fellow seniors, also dressed in bright and striped garb, and reveled in the realization that this would be our last performance together.
I’ve spent the better part of my high school years in the band room. If I wasn’t playing music during and after school, I was sitting just outside its doors eating lunch and hanging out with friends. Over the years, it’s become my “second home,” the place where I seek refuge with my second family and feel comfortable enough to let loose. I tried participating in many groups in high school, but this was the only place where I felt like I fully belonged.
Traditionally, the last concert of the year is reserved to honor the senior members of the band. In past years, all groups in the music program perform, including the jazz bands, string orchestra, drumline, color guard, and concert band. However, after last year’s concert ran over four hours long, band director Charles Ortega shortened the program to include just the strings and concert band.
Seniors have the opportunity to make this concert their own. In the past, students have selected a piece for a group to perform, created a combo, soloed, conducted, composed, emceed, and plenty more.
In this year’s program, senior Adrian Diosdado selected a favorite for the concert band to perform: “Pilatus: Mountain of Dragons” composed by Steven Reineck. Diosdado started playing alto sax freshman year and worked his way up to become drum major for last semester’s marching band. “I didn’t really imagine myself to be in this kind of position when I first joined band,” he explained. “When I was a freshman, I would look up to the juniors and seniors. But now that I’m a senior, I have students looking up to me. This is a very special group. It was an honor to lead them.”
Like most band seniors, I found lasting friendships and was changed through participation in different groups. I entered high school as a member of the color guard before transitioning to play flute solely in concert and marching band. Color guard was an intense version of life, complete with laughter, hard work, financial hardship, and relationship drama. Being part of such a tight-knit group meant we supported each other just like a family.
My fellow flutist and current color guard captain Teresa Payne feels the same way. As mother hen of a group of underclassmen, she’s learned responsibility and how to teach other people to make smart choices “not only in guard, but in life:.Without [band], I don’t think I’d be able to appreciate:high school and school in general as much,” Payne said. “Band was a really positive influence. It helped me stay focused on school [and helped me] find who I am.”
On Monday night, Payne and I walked onstage to perform three Irish jigs with our band director Ortega, but not before he proudly introduced us and listed our accomplishments of the past four years. I stood there awkwardly as he praised us, finding it unbelievable that it was finally my turn to be on stage. Four years ago, I could never have done what I did that night: calmly stand in front of an audience and play. Band has helped me transition to maturity, and I am forever grateful for the friendships and confidence that I have gained. I think my seniors would say likewise.