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Secret of the bandos: fun and friendship

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Katelyn Haggerty

‘So, this one time, at band camp … .” Maybe you’ve heard the famous line from the nerdy girl in the movie “American Pie.” Movies like that give band a bad name. It befuddles me that people think being in a marching band is social suicide or a negative thing.

Being in a marching band has given me some of the best experiences of my life, and I will never regret being labeled a band geek.

Remember being a freshman in high school? What about college? High school is a big deal coming from junior high, and when I left for college, I was one of only two people from my town attending UMass Amherst. I was scared to death.

Luckily, however, on my first day of class in high school, I already had about 100 friends. And even before I arrived for my first day at college, I instantly had about 380 friends. That’s all because of band camp, which meets before school begins.

As an uncertain college freshman, I found a comfortable place among the alto sax players in the university’s marching band. I was so thankful to know upperclassmen skilled in the ways of my new school, and to see familiar faces once in a while on campus. There’s nothing worse than being alone in an unfamiliar place.

Now in my junior year, I am still in the UMass Marching Band, “the Power and Class of New England.” On Saturdays when there are home games, I walk to the field at 7 a.m. to rehearse. Then the band marches over to the largest dormitory area on campus and plays as loudly as it can to wake up our classmates in time for kickoff.

Maybe they don’t like it at first, but after they wake up a little they enjoy it.

Throughout high school and in college, being in a marching band has allowed me to go places I never would have gone otherwise. I have played in Chattanooga, Tenn., Cleveland, Indianapolis, Germany, Disney World, Canada, and at Boston Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Not to mention, I will play in a New Year’s Day parade in Dublin, Ireland, next year. I have also shared a single football field with 3,000 other high school musicians for the annual Band Day that UMass hosts.

The power of a band can sometimes be awesome. At a UMass football game at Navy in Annapolis, Md., I remember watching all of the naval students file into the stadium. We played our version of “God Bless America,”which includes the band singing some parts. The entire crowd gave us a standing ovation, with many people crying.

Our band got a rough greeting, however, from the crowd at Holy Cross in Worcester. They booed us passionately. But once we started to play, we won them over and the fans gave us a standing ovation. We changed their minds. It’s really amazing when you can turn animosity into appreciation and happiness.

It’s almost like we bandos have a secret. We all know how much fun we have and the awesome things we get to do, yet people still think we’re all a bunch of nerds. This is where we laugh and shake our heads.

People who aren’t in band just don’t get it. We appreciate exactly what we are, what we do and how we affect other people. It’s a great feeling. It’s like  UMass Marching Band Director George N. Parks always says when we play at high school shows, “Being in a band is one of the best things you can do, and don’t let anyone ever tell you any differently.”

Katelyn Haggerty, 20, of Hudson, N.H. is majoring in music and journalism at the UMass Amherst.