by Kristalyn Patzkowski
Every band member in the Reedley High School Pirate marching band knows that the last Saturday in October is a big day. That is always the day that is dedicated to the Selma Band Review, the most important band review for our band! We know to mark that day on our calendars and get plenty of rest the evening before, have to memorize our show songs and choreography, and we practice for weeks. Four years ago, when I was a freshman at Reedley High School (RHS), I didn’t yet know how attached I would get to the band. I had never heard of the Selma Band Review, nor did I ever think that I would perform at that competition four consecutive years. Yet, this last year was my final time doing so.
From what I can remember, the morning passed by somewhat of a blur. I remember waking up early, a little before seven, and rushing to get dressed. I scurried around the house trying to get everything that I needed for that day. “Long white socks? Every part of your uniform? Student ID?” My mother called out. Check, check, and check. I had everything ready. “How ‘bout your breakfast?!” Ok. I had almost everything. I quickly grabbed a couple of granola bars from the kitchen counter and a vanilla chai protein drink from the fridge. With that, my mom and I left the house.
About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in front of the main band room at RHS. There were a few students already there, but apart from the band parents loading the instrument truck, the school was fairly empty. Quickly and quietly, I found a seat inside of the band room and ate my breakfast. Slowly more students arrived, and I realized that it was time for me to put on my uniform. While doing so, I noticed my cell phone light up. I flipped it open and saw that I had a message from Kimberly Derreza, my crew chief and a fellow senior. The message went like this: “This is it guys, our last Selma Band Review. It’s our last shot. Let’s march our best, scream our loudest, and dance like we’ve never danced before!” Instantly I felt energized and ready to take on the day. But, before I could do that, I forwarded the message to some of my other senior friends who I thought might need a little more motivation.
Soon afterwards, I found myself on a school bus headed for Selma. The bus ride itself didn’t take much time, however, I felt like I had been staring out the window for an eternity. I realized that I had butterflies in my stomach. “This is odd!” I thought to myself. “What do I have to be nervous for?” I knew the parade and field routines, and I really enjoyed the music that we had been playing all season long. In addition, I knew that we would have a lot of people from Reedley on the sides of the streets and in the bleachers cheering us on. I had no reason to worry, yet, for the first time in nearly four years, I felt like I had something to prove.
Around ten o’clock in the morning, the band arrived in Selma. The buses parked and we, students, got off. We lined up in our parade block and began practicing before our first performance. As a full band, we tuned our instruments, played through B flat scales a few times, and practiced the choreography. In what seemed like no time at all, we “stepped off”. Show time had officially started.
The parade also seemed short. We played through “Night Train” about four times, and then the parade portion of our competition was over! The only thing that I can remember from the parade was the halt before our band entered “the silent zone,” signaling that we would soon be in front of the judges. The primary reason I remembered this halt is because I stopped almost directly in front of Mr. Cisneros, the Principal of Reedley High School. I kept thinking to myself that I had to be at my best attention, I had to impress Mr. Cisneros. I had to show him, and the other people standing around him, that our band, the Big Green Marching Machine, was worth watching. I also remember thinking that the halt was REALLY long! I wanted to move, to take even the tiniest step. However, I knew that I shouldn’t because I was at attention and breaking from attention would make me the center of attention. I especially didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of our Principal.
Directly following the parade and percussion competition, we headed back towards our buses to change out of our uniforms. I was exhausted by this time and realized that I did not have enough strength to walk all the way back. So, I decided to ride on the big green fire truck, the one that follows the band to nearly every parade. After being granted permission to ride, I hopped onto the back. Might I say that it probably wasn’t my wisest choice? I hung to the back rails with all of my might, but every time the fire truck would make a turn or stop, I would nearly fall off. Thankfully, I made it back to the buses safely and the discomfort in my foot subsided.
We band members were given about twenty minutes to change out of our uniforms, and then we headed off towards Jackson Elementary School. With it now being about 11:30 in the morning, everyone was ready for lunch, which would consist of pizza, cookies and soda. You know, the usual diet of a marching band member.
We had about five hours to kill between the parade and our field show competitions. Most students stayed at the school, but a few individuals headed to Selma High School (which is within walking distance of the elementary school) to check out the other bands’ performances. From what I heard, Selma High School did an excellent job for their field show. I decided to stay at the elementary school and relax before the competition. Actually, I spent most of my time alone. I listened to some music on my iPod and reminisced on my past performances at Selma. I was lost in thought when Joyce Funda told me it was time to head over to the high school to watch Orange Cove perform. That’s one our traditions in the Reedley High School band: cheer on the Orange Cove band during the field show competition. They did an excellent job this year! Their field show was a compilation of Green Day songs, which I only knew because one of my best friends, Taylor, is an absolute fanatic of Green Day. I thought of her while I watching the band.
In less than an hour after the band returned to the elementary school, we had to change back into our green uniforms. We headed to one of the fields in the back and practiced our songs as a whole band. Our time for the field show competition was getting closer and closer, and again, I was feeling anxious. We were going to be the last band to perform and I knew that the audience would be anticipating our arrival.
To my surprise, Mr. Gipson, our band director, gave us a few minutes to talk within our crews before marching to the high school, for a “pep talk”, as he called it. Immediately, three hundred and fifty band members congregated into about seventeen distinct groups. The crew that I was in was large, but Kim had no trouble getting or keeping any of our attentions. She told us to enjoy ourselves and that it didn’t matter what awards we would or wouldn’t win. She was right. Our upcoming performance, as much as it was, it wasn’t for the judges. It was for the screaming spectators in the stands. Our job as Reedley High School band members was to entertain, and that’s what we did!
There isn’t much that I remember from the field show either, except that it was short! It seemed that as soon and we marched onto the field, we marched off. I was told later, by an underclassman, that wasn’t the case. However, I remember, standing at the beginning of “Night Train” and wondering when we were going to play through, “Rebel Yell,” “Bellavia,” and “Blue Grove”. When I finally came to my senses, I realized that we HAD already played those three songs and we were indeed about to play the last song in our program. We did so and concluded our show by marching off of the field and into the stands. It must have taken a long time to get over three hundred band members into one section of the bleachers but somehow that process became a blur in my mind, too. However, I do remember being in the stands and chanting and singing at the top of my lungs.
There’s another tradition that our band has while at the Selma Band review: once we’re all in the stands, we sing, and yell, and chant, just to show the audience at the other side of the field that we, The Big Green Marching Machine, did what we came to do, which is to put on a show. I can only imagine what our band looked like from the other side of the football field! It must have looked like a sea of Kelley Green. There must have been waves and ripples, and the sense that the ocean, our band in this case, could not be contained. The intrigue and mystique would only be known by the actual members of the band.
The awards ceremony could not have come soon enough. Tensions had been mounting and many band members, not only from Reedley High School, were getting tired. It had been a long day and we wanted to know how we measured up to the other bands. Our band did really well in all of the high school competitions and that became evident when the broadcaster announced which awards we had earned. We had won:
1.) Third place in Division A for the parade
2.) High Music Score on the field
3.) High General Effects Award
4.) Field Sweepstakes
5.) Grand Marshall’s Award (which means that we were the most entertaining band)
While I was thrilled to hear that our band had won the awards that it did, my favorite moment came the following Monday. For first period, the band directors called everyone from the band into the performing arts theater. I thought the band directors were just going to talk to us about our performance and congratulate us on the trophies that we had won. However, Mr. Gipson surprised me. He started the period off by showing us a video taken of the band during the field show competition. It was amazing! I could see straight lines and diagonals, high-knee halts and exaggerated kick steps! As the video came to an end, I felt warm teardrops running down my cheeks. For the first time in the marching season, I saw more than a band. We were not just going through the motions, but rather pouring every ounce of our souls into that performance. We were entertaining! We were the kind of band that I wish every band could be: a selfless band whose biggest goal was to put a smile on the face of every audience member. We achieved that goal, and I can’t be any prouder of this band! I wouldn’t wish for my last Selma Band performance to play out in any other way.
I want to give a special thanks to our drum majors, Elva Duran, Joyce Funda, and Marissa Arias; all of the crew chiefs and squad leaders; our percussionists, flag girls, and auxiliary crew; and each of the band directors: Samuel Gipson, Jimmy Loomis, Daniel Paulsen, David Fowler, and Alison Dye!