Football Games: The Band Perspective

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Benicia High school band posing for photo

By: Hannah Jones

All photo credits: BHS Band Booster Parents

The bright lights, screaming crowds and the artificial green grass overwhelm my senses as unnamedwe march out onto the field. The sun is setting, hot pink from the smoke, filling our eyes with the last rays of the day. “Please stand for the playing of the National Anthem.” The drums roll as the trumpets raise their horns and confidently play the fanfare that we all know and love. The words run through my head as the melody sings through the air before Mr. Martin gives the cue to the rest of the band to join along. The anxiety always rushes in right before the trombone soli, it could make or break the entire performance. As we hit the first two notes of our part perfectly, it sends shivers down my back and fills my arms with goosebumps. ‘And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,’ those words pulse through my brain as I express that energy through the notes that I play. As the music proceeds the crowd cheers when the trumpets play the highest note of the song, the last note rings out as we cut off as one unit. Called to attention and a forward move, we race to our next job: pep band. Even though I have practiced and performed this song more than a hundred times during my high school career, it still is fascinating everytime we play it.

Last Friday, the Panther Football team went head to head against Pinole Valley Spartans. Although losing 18:25, it was a very exciting game. But the football team were not the only ones anticipating the first game of the year, so was the band. As the band our job is simple: always stay behind the team. Win or lose we will always support them. Whether you know it or not, the band doesn’t just play to play — there is a method to our madness. Led by Patrick Martin, the Panther Band Director, we think of ourselves as the twelfth man. In football, there are eleven players. The band is the twelfth team member and we never give up on our teammates. And just like the team has a game plan, so do we. We have very specific music and cheers designed to either encourage, approve or distract to provide what Mr. Martin calls “the home field advantage.”  the kickoff is offensive at the start of the game, we play a short clip of ‘Carmina Burana’ by Carl Orff. This is a song that gets people really hyped up and ready for battle. If you ever need a serious confidence boost before a big test, look it up and watch the first thirty seconds of it. If the kickoff happens to be defensive then we play ‘Night on Bald Mountain’. This song is aimed to intimidate the other team and get them out of their focus. Once the game gets going we have short little songs we play for each play in the game. After a defensive play where the ball was ran, we play ‘Born to Be Wild’ to support the good play they made. After a defensive play where the ball was passed, we play ‘Schools Out’ for the same effect and to keep it interesting for us, as players, and the crowd, as audience members. on a 3rd down, we play an audience favorite, ‘Go Big Blue’, and we chant, ‘We want a touchdown.’ On first downs, we yell ‘Charge’ as we play our ‘Charges’ tune. And of course we have to play a victorious tune every time a touchdown is made. We play ‘Big C,’ which is the fight song for UC Berkeley. Every song, every yell, every cheer is performed for a precise reason and for a purpose.

4.pngWe must practice to get this precise formula down everytime, and we didn’t start the day before the game. We spend at least the entire first week of school every year just learning about how to do football games. We have to learn and memorize all of the songs that you hear including the Star Spangled Banner. All of the music that you hear at a game has been practiced for hours. I know that the trombone section alone took out at least three hours of time outside of regular practice, to make sure that we sounded good for the game last Friday. We also spend precious band camp hours learning cheers to yell at the games. And an hour before the game starts we all show up, dressed in our blue and gold, and practice to make sure that we get it right the first time when we perform.

5We don’t just go to football games because we have to either. Football games are an  extremely fun part of band. Many alumni love to come back just to play the games. It is a really good opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone whether it be in your personality and in your playing. Football games are really the only time we all get to play unreasonably loud. In concert and marching band, we are restricted by dynamics and the quality of the band’s overall sound. But at football games, one of our main goals is to make lots of sound and therefore we can unlock a whole new level of dynamics. It is a really nice time to bond with your section as well. The trombones for example have started doing our own cheers during blank moments in the game in order to bring us closer together as a section. And the closer you are as friends the easier it is to make good music in concert and marching settings because you can really trust the people around you.

6.pngNone of these could be possible without the help of our booster parents and Mr. Martin. The parents who come and volunteer at our games are invaluable to the product that we produce. They make sure that we are well-hydrated, well-fed, healthy and happy throughout the entire game. Without the boosters, we would not be as successful as we are at every game. And Mr. Martin puts in time orchestrating field reservations and making sure that we all know exactly what we need to do at all times.   

 

Sometimes all of our efforts have great rewards, the team wins. We leave with a feeling of accomplishment and joy. Sometimes, like last Friday, the team loses. But we still leave knowing that we did everything that we could to help the team stay motivated because no matter what, we always stay behind our team because we are the twelfth man. Of course I can’t give away all of our little secrets that keep the games going smoothly, but I hope that you can now have a greater appreciation for the band next time you hear us at a game. Remember we are there to support the team just as much as you are. Go Panthers!

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