Last night on the NBC Nightly News, Martin Savage did a report on the return of St. Augustine's Marching 100. I found that poignant because last weekend I was watching perhaps the worst band competition ever. Bands were marching in Philadelphia on TV. The bands were wearing t-shirts, the flag teams were awful, and the songs were hideous. I remember in high school waiting for the St. Aug game just so we could hear the band at halftime. I remember one year that one of my classmates ran out onto the field with a blue and white wig and leisure suit to march with the best band in New Orleans.
The rest of this country doesn't seem to have much of a clue of the importance that music plays in the lives of our young people in New Orleans. It is everywhere, and it is vital. How many children in New Orleans have escaped poverty or drugs or depression or any number of other social ills because of music? How many have learned lessons that athletics and academics alone could not teach because of music? How many have learned the importance of practice, technique, and discipline required to master an instrument and march in formation? How many have had the spotlight on them for a week every year as they displayed their mastery during Mardi Gras? How many lifelong friendships have been forged?
St Aug was flooded. The band room was destroyed, but students are coming back because being part of the school band is important to them. One student is living alone in New Orleans while his grandmother is somewhere else so he can be part of the band. It's his school, and it's his band. I miss the days when the streets were blocked off while a middle school or high school band was practicing. In fact, the day of a friends wedding, we were sitting on the front stoop having a drink when this New Orleans phenomenon took place. How great is that?
Little things like this make life livable. Music in New Orleans is a great equalizer. We all shake our butts and tap our feet when we hear great music. It makes us part of who we are. And now the Marching 100 are back so we can do our thing. Thank you, St. Augustine. And keep up the great work.
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