Marching on in Marching Band

Because I played tenor saxophone in marching band, and my wife was on the silk squad, our offspring seemed destined to participate in such a corps.

Because I played tenor saxophone in marching band, and my wife was on the silk squad, our offspring seemed destined to participate in such a corps.

Now in his freshman year of high school, my son Julian made his debut as a trombone player for the North Pocono Trojan Marching Band. Seeing him take the field for the first time made me beam with pride.

It was 85 degrees at 6 p.m., and 100 kids were out there in uniforms made for October. When one of the young women in the color guard dropped, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I also knew what was going to happen next.

A band story we laugh about as a family recalls the moment during a halftime show when my wife Sheryl was guarding the American flag, but her hat was strapped too tightly to her chin, and she passed out on the field.

When it actually happened to a girl that night, Julian panicked. I knew that he absolutely thought he was next.

A sousaphone player was turned around talking to him, and I’m sure was trying his best to calm him down, but it didn’t work. Next thing I knew, I saw the back of a skinny trombone player sitting on the football team bench. Even before I was called to go, I was on my way down the steps.

A symptom of my son’s autism flared up, and he was having a panic attack like Brian Wilson on a jet plane. I had to be very careful with my delivery.

I knelt down alongside him. Tears were running down his cheeks.

“I can’t do it, Dad,” he said.

“You have to, your band is depending on you,” I said firmly but gently.

“I can’t do it!”

“Do you know your drill?” I said with the voice of a calming teacher.

“Yeah...”

“Your music is memorized, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Then you have nothing to worry about. Go.”

He strapped his helmet on, and like a good soldier, he stood in his spot. The band started their routine.

After the routine, I told him that he looked like he was out for a walk in the park, his slide never moved, he was playing to the ground…and I had never been more proud of him. He had conquered pure fear, and his band mates were greatly appreciative, hugging and high-fiving him.

Two days later, he was back out on the field for the first football game of the year, and it was an entirely different story. He marched in step, played every note, his horn angle was perfect, and again, I had never been more proud of him.

I am positive that what happened to Julian that first night will never happen to him again on a marching field. That dragon has been slain. March on, son, march on.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, starts every walk on his left foot.